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YIVO Institute to Receive Major Gift To Create New Gallery

PRESS NEWS: For immediate release
Contact: Suzanne Leon, Director of Development, 917-606-8227 /

(L-R) Harry, Sima, Rubin and Leon Wagner.
NEW YORK, NY (March 10, 2011) – The YIVO Institute for Jewish Research is proud to announce a major gift to be received from Leon Wagner and Harry Wagner to create a gallery to honor the memory of their parents, as well as the lost Jewish community of Vilna where their parents were born. "The Sima and Rubin Wagner Vilna Gallery" will feature new exhibition spaces and a multimedia area highlighting the 85-year history of YIVO and its contemporary relevance.

A special highlight of "The Sima and Rubin Wagner Vilna Gallery," once it is completed, will be audio clips of the eyewitness accounts of Vilna survivors and musical clips of Vilna ghetto songs that are still sung today.

"This gift to YIVO will serve to remind each visitor of the central importance of family, and particularly those family members who survived the Holocaust to build new lives in America," noted Ella Levine, Director of Development & External Affairs at YIVO. "It will simultaneously tell the story of one extended family, the prewar Jewish community of Vilna, and how YIVO is intertwined in personal and world history. As children of Holocaust survivors, we are keepers of our parents' legacy. It is our responsibility to bring this legacy to current and future generations," Levine continued.

"The Sima and Rubin Wagner Vilna Gallery" will celebrate several generations of the Wagner family and their connections to their East European roots. Many Wagner family photographs and other items will be incorporated into exhibitions supplemented by materials from the YIVO Archives and Library.

Harry Wagner and Leon Wagner have been longtime friends of YIVO. They and their extended families were honored with the Vilna Award at the 9th Annual YIVO Heritage Dinner in 2010, where Sima and Rubin were also remembered and saluted. At this dinner, Rabbi Howard Buechler, who knew Sima and Rubin, traced their history and spoke about their connection to the broader history of Vilna Jewry in America. Harry Wagner, born just after the war in the Heidenheim DP Camp, came to America with Sima and Rubin in 1949. Leon Wagner was the first American-born member of the family.

For information on creating a tribute naming opportunity at YIVO, please contact Ella Levine at 212-294-6128 or

ABOUT YIVO: Founded in 1925, The YIVO Institute is headquartered in New York City, and is the world’s preeminent resource center for East European Jewish Studies; Yiddish language, literature and folklore and the American Jewish Experience.