NEW YORK (JTA) – Ellen Schaeffer Brody, a Jewish mother of three from Scarsdale, was identified as the driver of the SUV that caused a deadly Metro-North train accident in suburban New York.
Brody, 49, and five passengers aboard the train were killed during rush hour on Tuesday evening when the northbound train struck Brody’s Mercedes SUV at a railroad crossing in Valhalla. It’s not clear why Brody’s vehicle had stopped on the tracks.
Brody’s employer, Varda Singer of ICD Contemporary Jewelry in Chappaqua, told JTA that Brody “was a real tzaddik.” Brody had worked for about 15 years at the store, which was formerly known as Israeli Jewelry Designs.
“She was a woman who always saw the glass half full, cheerful, an amazing mother with three kids, always helping her husband,” Singer told JTA. “She was selfless. She always put herself last. She really cared more about other people than herself.”
Late Tuesday night, after Brody failed to return home, one of her daughters phoned one of her mother’s co-workers looking for her, Singer said.
Brody’s funeral will take place at 10 a.m. Friday at Chabad of the Rivertowns in Dobbs Ferry, her husband, Alan Brody, announced on Facebook.
Brody and her family have been involved with the Chabad center since its inception 12 years ago, according to the center’s co-director, Rabbi Benjy Silverman. Brody’s three daughters, Danielle, Jules and Lexi, all went to the Chabad Hebrew school and had their bat mitzvahs there.
About six years ago, when Silverman was looking for a volunteer couple to do a mock Jewish wedding for the Hebrew school, the Brodys not only stepped up, but Ellen showed up in her wedding dress and Alan in his tuxedo, Silverman recalled.
“She’s such a good sport,” Silverman told JTA. “She gave the kids such a good time. She’s always smiling, very warm, always helping out.”
The Brodys were slated to come to the Chabad this weekend for a Friday night dinner event, he said.
“They were very Jewishly proud, with strong connections to Israel,” Silverman said. “It was an important part of her life and her family’s life.”
Just last month, two of Brody’s daughters returned home from Birthright trips to Israel, according to Singer. Brody’s friends at the store were preparing to celebrate her 50th birthday together in March, Singer said.
Tuesday’s accident on the commuter rail’s Harlem line was the deadliest in Metro-North history.