Neta Saxon (lt.) & Roz Brodie (far right) playing at the Ladies Bridge Championship 2008 against Matilda Popilov & Stella Sagiv

 

The final of the 2008 Israeli Ladies Bridge Championship saw the victory of two sprightly young players, Neta Saxon and Roz Brodie… young at heart anyway! They proved that age is only a number when they triumphed over 50 other couples.  While Neta Saxon has represented Israel many times over more than three decades, Roz Brodie (who represented Israel in the European Women’s Team Championships in 1975) has, until recently, kept herself away from national competitions despite her considerable talent for the game.  To find out more, I asked her to answer a few questions.

 

To start with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I was born in Johannesburg, but my family was still living in Manchester, England, at that time.  I don’t really recall much about my early years there since we moved to Cape Town when I was only six; so my real upbringing was in South Africa where I also met Harry, my future husband.  We were blessed with four children.  We were very active politically on the national level of the tiny, but significant Liberal opposition party, led by Alan Paton (author of “Cry the Beloved Country”) – we even had the “honor” of having open police files in our names.  Eventually, however, we felt that our fight there was hopeless, and we didn’t want our children growing up in an Apartheid country, so we left South Africa and after a brief interlude in Toronto, moved to our planned destination, Israel, in 1965, and we have been very happy here.

 

How did you get involved in bridge?

For that I have to thank Harry.  You see, despite coming from a card playing family, I was never exposed to bridge.  Harry’s mother taught him to play when he was ten years old, and he was often enrolled as a willing fourth to complete a table at his family’s “grown-ups” bridge games.  All his university friends played and he was naturally very keen to share it with me.  I took to it like a fish to water and we soon spent many happy hours playing social bridge against friends.

 

We played our first duplicate games at Kate Buckman’s in Toronto in a charming and very well-known club where you could hear a penny drop: the players behaved as if they were in the austere surroundings of a library and I don’t recall anyone arguing out loud or even asking for a ruling.  When we moved to Israel we frequently played at the Netanya bridge club, and eventually we got so involved with the game that together with close friend, Len and Monica Barnett (who have since passed away) and knowledgeable enthusiasts like Mike Ossip, we formed our own club in Herzliya.  The club became very successful (with often well over 60 tables per evening when we were based at the Accadia Hotel) – but it was also a lot of hard work and we had to move frequently to new premises, which eventually weakened it and caused it to disband.

 

Was the bridge scene different from what it is now?

Very different.  There was little or no perceived need for self-instruction.  Players would simply turn up and do their best, learning as they went along.  Very few read bridge books or even thought of taking lessons.  From that point of view, nowadays there are so many options available for players to improve, with a variety of courses at most clubs across the country, and there is no doubt that the general standard of play has improved tremendously. On the other hand I recall that national and regional championships would regularly attract the best players, and competition was fierce even at evening club games while today there seem to be a lot of good players who prefer to practice on the internet in the comfort of their own home.  And, I have to mention that the “Nofshons” (bridge holidays) were much simpler and smaller.  Everybody seemed to know everybody else, and especially the first ones at the Dead Sea were like family get-togethers.

 

What was your most notable bridge achievement?

I used to play almost exclusively with Harry, and we did quite well together. In the early seventies, however, Mike Ossip asked me to form a partnership with a promising, but comparatively new player to represent our club and compete in the Ladies Championship which would help determine the selection of the ladies’ team for the 1975 European championships in Brighton, England. So I started to play with Nurit Naveh and to our surprise we did well in the championships and were thus selected for the team.  Representing my country in an international setting was a great honor which I cherish to this day, despite recalling some tense hours when competing in the Open Room (quite successfully!) against the legendary Rixie Markus and Fritzie Gordon, the acknowledged number one ladies pair of the time.

 

 And yet despite your early success you withdrew from competitive bridge soon thereafter. May I ask why?

It was a hard decision but I still feel it was the right one.  To compete at a high level one needs to sacrifice evenings, weekends and more; something which a mother with young children finds considerably difficult. Also playing tough competitive bridge is inevitably a draining experience which leaves very little energy for anything else. So I decided that if I cannot fully dedicate myself to it, I would rather not do it at all and I just reverted to playing the regular club bridge which I continue to enjoy to this day.

What made you come back?

I really don’t know! I had played a few times with Neta in local clubs and despite having rather different playing styles we seemed to do well at the table so when she asked me to play in the Ladies Championship I sort of said, “Oh, why not?” and then only later upon coming home I realized what I had committed myself to and started having second thoughts.  Anyway it was too late by then and after a rocky start we went on from strength to strength and finished first!

 

To what do you attribute your success in the championship?

To be honest I don’t recall having done anything spectacular, I guess it was just good solid bridge, with a few mistakes here and there for sure, but probably less than our opponents made.

 

What are your interests apart from bridge?

I was brought up with a strong tradition of helping people less fortunate than myself. In South Africa I taught at night schools for adult Africans, I was a group leader in Habonim (which was a strong influence in our deciding to settle in Israel), and was active in numerous charities.  In Israel, amongst other things I worked for many years as a volunteer teacher/assistant at On, a school for children with cerebral palsy, and I also started Esra Meals on Wheels scheme for delivering food to poor people and those who had difficulty getting out to shop for their own requirements.

As regards my own personal activities, we were partners in the famous Fisherman’s Village Restaurant in Nueiba, (Sinai).  I also personally managed the much loved movie house at the Accadia cinema for many years, and I am still active today as a real estate agent in the Herzliya-Sharon area.

Like most South Africans I have always enjoyed many sports – tennis, squash, snorkeling, and especially golf as well as a regular regimen of aerobic and other exercises.

 

Thank you very much for your time, Roz, it was a real pleasure to meet you!

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