Avi Gruber: ‘I Love Being with My People.’
Avi Gruber discusses living in Israel and what he misses most about Michigan.
Avi Gruber, 72, moved back to Israel in 2016 with his wife, Abby. Although he was born and raised in Israel, he still had to adjust to his “new” surroundings after leaving the warm community of Beverly Hills, Mich. They settled in Tel Aviv but recently moved to Hod HaSharon, where the pace feels a little more like Michigan.
JN: When did you leave Israel?
Avi: I lived in Israel until I was 26, when I settled down in Detroit.
JN: What drew you to Michigan?
Avi: I met my wife in Florida, but she was from Birmingham, Mich., and that’s how I ended up there. We first lived in Birmingham and then moved to Southfield and then to Beverly Hills. I lived in Michigan for a total of 42 years.
JN: What made you decide to move back to Israel?
Avi: There’s a dream that every Israeli has when they leave Israel. At the beginning, you are ready to go back to Israel; but as time goes by, you settle down and all these things get put on the back burner.
Our two sons, Joshua and Jordan, had both made aliyah and all our grandchildren live in Israel, so when we thought about that, we decided to live near our grandchildren.
JN: What shul and schools did your family attend in Michigan?
Avi: I was affiliated with The Shul in West Bloomfield, where Rabbi Shemtov is the rabbi. I was with him from the beginning when the minyan was in his basement all the way through until the time I left. My kids went to Sunday school at Beit Achim Southfield, where they both had their bar mitzvahs.
JN: What did you do professionally when you lived in Michigan?
Avi: I had a well-known auto repair shop called Avi’s Auto Care on Northwestern Highway in Farmington Hills. I also had a Mobile gas station on Northwestern and Orchard Lake for five years.
JN: What do you do to occupy your time?
Avi: I’m an outdoors person. I do a lot of hiking all over Israel with different groups. We travel anyplace we can. For example, I’m just taking off for four or five days with a friend to Cyprus, just to have a little bit of a different environment.
JN: How is it living back in Israel now after so many years of living in the diaspora?
Avi: It is a big adjustment for me and my wife. It’s not easy, but you learn to adjust. You do the best of it, but you have to be determined because if you’re not, you’re not going to make it.
JN: Do you still have family living here?
Avi: My mother, who is in her 90s, lives here. My brother and his children and grandchildren also live here, as do my sons and their families.
JN: What do you love about being back in Israel?
Avi: I love being with my people and being close to my family. I love the environment. I joined a soccer team, called “walking football,” which is made up almost entirely of foreigners and some Israelis.
JN: Is there anything you miss about living in Michigan?
Avi: I miss the weather. Because of my business, snow was a big part of my life. I loved waking up in the morning and cleaning our neighbors’ and my in-laws’ driveways with my plow and going cross-country skiing.
The other thing I miss is the Jewish Community Center, which was a big part of my life. I loved the sports and the environment and seeing my friends. I also loved my neighborhood in Beverly Hills.
Detroit was very good to me in many different ways, but I realized a long time ago that it wasn’t home. Here, I feel a lot more comfortable.
JN: Do you have any advice for people thinking about making aliyah?
Avi: You should make aliyah, but you have to prepare yourself in many different ways, especially emotionally. If you’re not ready for all the difficulties you will encounter, that’s not good. It helps if you have some money saved or a profession in which you can continue earning an income. Get yourself ready and don’t dive in with your eyes closed.