Five generations of Wagman family gather for reunion

More than 400 people representing five generations of Ruchel and Isaac Wagman’s descendants gathered earlier this month (2004) in Chicago for the latest in a series of reunions held every four years in a different city.

“It has now been 20 years since the first international reunion of the family,” said Toronto’s Mel Katzman, who chaired the 1996 Wagman reunion.

He said he is pleased to see the torch passed to an enthusiastic fifth generation, many of whom will be working on organizing the next reunion in Toronto — the family’s sixth — in 2008.

“It was amazing,” Katzman said of the recent four-day event. “I walked into the dining room of the hotel in Chicago and I was greeted by hundreds of family from across Canada, the United States, Israel, Africa, China, Argentina and Brazil. It is impossible to describe the feeling unless one experiences the emotion of that moment.”

Ruchel and Isaac Wagman (Wegman) were born in Bogoria, Poland, a shtetl 150 kilometres south of Warsaw. They married in 1861 and operated a bakery and general store. After the Kishinev pogrom in 1895 and the institution of repressive measures by the Russian government of the time, the Wagman children and their families began immigrating to North America, and when they were established, they brought others.

Anne Picov told The CJN that 1,500 Wagman descendants have been identified, and of those, 900 are living.

“At the reunion, the youngest relative was five days old and the oldest was 89,” Picov said.

“It is exciting and very uplifting to be with so many relatives in one place . . . [there is a] wonderful feeling and warmth we have at these reunions.”

At the reunion, family members unveiled a family history in the form of a 127-page book. There was also a slide show and an elaborate family tree, and recently the family, which calls itself the Ruchel Isaac Cousins’ Club, designed a website with links to family information and photos. Its address is http://www.ruchel-isaac.org/

“Our distant cousins have become close family and friends,” Katzman said. “We call each other throughout the year and share our joys and adversities. The ruach and the glow of the memories these reunions create will be with all of us forever.”

To mark each reunion, family members make charitable contributions to the communities that have given them a good life. This year, the Chicago cousins held a family blood donor drive, while the Toronto cousins donated $10,000 to the Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care. ♦

This article appeared originally in the Canadian Jewish News and appears here courtesy of the author. © 2004 by Cynthia Gasner.

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Wagman family reunion ‘a unique event’

Several hundred people — to the eighth generation of Ruchel and Isaac Wagman will gather in Toronto July 3 to 6 (2008) for the seventh family reunion.

The family holds a reunion every four years in a different city.

“The first international reunion of the family was held 24 years ago,” said David Picov, co-chair with Shari Bricks-Young of the Wagman family’s reunion. The two other planning members are Michelle Garshon and Debbie Zeger. All four are fifth generation.

The last reunion, held in Chicago, attracted more than 400 people. The 2008 reunion will be at the Sheraton Centre hotel on Queen Street West. Family members from across Canada and the United States, and from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, will be coming.

Picov said the reunion is an opportunity for cousins to make friends for life, “and that’s what it’s all about.”

Bricks-Young described the reunions as “a unique event. Imagine the awe and the wow when more than 300 people gather in one room at one time and they are all your cousins.”

Ruchel and Isaac Wagman (Wegman) were born in Bogoria, Poland, a shtetl 150 kilometres south of Warsaw. They married in 1861 and operated a bakery and general store.

After the Kishinev pogrom in 1895 and the institution of repressive measures by the Russian government of the time, the Wagman children and their families began immigrating to North America, and when they were established, they brought other family members.

Picov said that there will be three members of the third generation at the reunion. “The youngest relative is David Perkins . . . from Rosewell, Georgia, who is three months old, and the oldest is Nettie Berkson from Los Angeles, who is 93.

“We will be marking the 150th wedding anniversary of Ruchel and Isaac with a candlelighting ceremony in which representatives from each of the eight branches, as well as one for those who perished in the Holocaust, will come up to light a candle,” Picov said.

He added that, as at previous reunions, “we will have a special guest appearance from Ruchel and Isaac themselves, who will join us and kvell over all of their descendents.”

The weekend will begin on Thursday with activities planned throughout the day, including a barbecue dinner and karaoke. There will be a family day at Centre Island, a Shabbat dinner and a formal Saturday gala dinner and dance. Also on the roster is a slide show, special entertainment for all ages, a golf tournament, a panoramic family photo, a family tree book and a closing Sunday brunch.

“When people talk about a family reunion,” Bricks-Young said, “they speak of a gathering at a park with a potluck lunch, or meeting at Uncle Marv’s house where he supplies the hot dogs and you bring your own beverages.

“At the Ruchel-Isaac cousins’ club, there is so much more – a true convention of family with non-stop programming geared to all generations.

“Over the years, distant cousins have become close family and friends. The glow and the memories remain with us throughout the years,” she concluded.

This article appeared originally in the Canadian Jewish News and appears here courtesy of the author. © 2008 by Cynthia Gasner.

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Wagman family members held Chicago reunion in 1985

Some 400 members of the Wagman clan gathered for a family reunion in Chicago in the summer of 1985, the Canadian Jewish News reported in a story in its issue of August 15, 1985.

Family members came from as far away as Los Angeles, Brazil, Argentina and Toronto, which was represented by a contingent of 55 family members, including Linda Garshon of Toronto.

The family patriarch and matriarch, Ruchel and Isaac Wagman, were married in the early 1860s in the Polish village of Bogria, the newspaper reported. Bogria is a shtetl about 150 kilometres south of Warsaw. Each of the Wagman’s nine children survived and had a large family. Two of the branches settled in Chicago and Toronto, and most of the others left Poland before the Nazi era.

Some, however, waited too long to leave and this group was represented in Chicago by Louis Gotlieb and in Toronto by Harry Gula, the only survivors of that branch of the family, the story reported. ♦

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