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Helen and Sol Krawitz Holocaust Memorial Education Center

Shimon and Sara Birnbaum Jewish Community Center

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Descendant Profile






    Aviv Wagner was born on March 23, 1977 in Haifa, Israel. His parents, Michael and Madeline Wagner got divorced when he was five years old. Subsequently, Aviv went to live with his grandparents, Ita Wolf-Wagner and Zvi Wolf-Wagner in Kiryat Yam, a suburb of Haifa. Aviv was the fourth of four siblings. When his parents got divorced, his older sister was 15 and she came to live with the grandparents as well. He grew up with a household filled with children, food, laughter and celebrations. When Aviv became of age (18), he went into the Israeli Defense Forces serving from 1996 to 2001. In the IDF he was a personal trainer on an airforce base and did checkpoints in the West Bank. Aviv emigrated to the United States on March 14, 2007, settling in Somerset county, New Jersey.  In 2008 Aviv joined the fitness staff at the SSBJCC in Bridgewater where he soon became a valued employee of the organization. Presently (2021), Aviv is employed as Assistant Fitness Director at the JCC. Aviv has always pursued with a passion fitness and personal training as his career.


    For Descendant Submission, Select Remembrance.

    Memories of an Israeli Childhood with Baba (Zvi) and Deyda (Ita)

    When I was five years old, my parents got divorced, and I went to live with my grandparents. I called them Baba and Deyda, grandma and grandpa in Russian. They lived in Kiryat Yam, a suburb of Haifa. They used to celebrate all my birthdays. I remember all my parties. They were always in the kitchen. There was always a lot of food and a lot of guests and a lot of vodka. But not for me…not for the children. There was always children in the house, but some were away. My older sister was 15 when my parents got divorced. She went to my grandparent’s house. I was one of four siblings—number four. Then my youngest sister, Maya, the baby. So in my grandparent’s house there was Maya (3 years younger), Edgar (a year and half older) and Shmuel or Sam and Tsipi—the older ones went to boarding school and the navy school.

    My grandmother was a Russian work horse. She accepted the job of caring for all the children. My grandfather didn’t talk. He used to sing songs from the war usually on the weekends when he celebrated from work. We tried to talk to him but he would never talk. We got the stories from my Dad, Micha. The way he grew up was much harder than the way we grew up. It was right after the war, and there was a lot of discipline on the part of my grandfather. Taking off the belt. Everyone used to pick on my dad. He grew up in Russia and everyone there called him “Juden.” In Israel, they called him sticking Russian. We used to eat a lot in Deyda’s house, but she used to limit us. We couldn’t drink more than one cup of coca cola. Those things were extra expensive. There was lot’s of savings in my house. It was a big celebration to go to get sneakers. A big deal to go to a restaurant. Everyone eats home. I went to public schools for six years, grades 1-6 and then moved to high school in a farm school in a small village, Nahalal. I was supposed to be a farmer, not a trainer. Then at 18 I went to the army. I was a personal trainer on the air force base. I chose to have a professional job in the army. I did checkpoints in the West Bank. I was in the Israeli Army from 1996-2001.


    Editor's Note: Refer to Related Media to see Aviv's Key Chain Remembrances of his Grandparents, Baba and Deyda. He carries them with him where ever he goes. Close to his heart.

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  • Sources and Credits:


    Aviv Wagner, “Memories of an Israeli Childhood”; digital and historic family Photos donated by Aviv Wagner; Brief biography by Nancy Gorrell