How can one here today not be concerned with the assault that is being waged on Jewish memory? Some people deny that it occurred, others turn it around and say that we were guilty. Others still, in their viciousness, use a vocabulary that we use with regard to the killer, but they use it against Israel. ...How can there not be concern about anti-Semitism? We were convinced that anti-Semitism perished here. Anti-Semitism did not perish. Its victims did.
--Elie Wiesel at the "March Ceremony"
April 14, 1996, will be the day that I begin my courageous journey on The March of the Living. Six thousand Jewish teens, on April 16, 1996, from countries around the world will share in a once-in-a-lifetime experience when they march three kilometers from Auschwitz to Birkenau, the largest concentration camp complex built by the Nazis during World War II. The March commemorates Yom Hashoah-Holocaust Remembrance Day.
While attending a Bnai Brith Youth Organization (BBYO) convention in 1994 I first heard about The March of the Living when the previous participants from my region, Central Region East, presented a slide show on it. The slides that I saw strengthened my belief that the only way we can stop history from repeating itself is by keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive. We can never forget.
More than one year later I was at BBYOs Chapter Leadership Training Conference (CLTC) IV at the Bnai Brith Perlman Camp in Starlight, PA, having the best time of my life. On the tenth night at CLTC we had on our schedule March of the Living Program. To our surprise it was not a talk about the program, but an actual reenactment of the March. Drifting through my mind, while watching the program, I thought how lucky I am that my grandmother escaped from Poland just a few years before it all began. If it was not for the foresight of my great grandfather, I might not be here today to write this paper. The program affected me in an efficacious way; I could see how participating in the March of the Living created an intensity in the program leaders. It was then that I knew I had to go.
As I march from Auschwitz to Birkenau on Yom Hashoah, I want to feel the presence of my ancestors; and as I go on to Israel I want to rejoice for all Jews alike on Yom Haatzmaut-Israels 48th Independence Day on April 24. Yom Hashoah and Yom Haatzmaut are two of the most important days in modern Jewish times. On Yom Haatzmaut I will join together with millions of Israelis in celebration of the miracle of the state of Israel. This year the celebration will take on an even greater importance with the celebration of Jerusalem 3,000, the 3,000th birthday of the holy city.
There will be many sights that we will visit while in Poland. We will visit the concentration camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Treblinka and Majdanek, historical sights in Warsaw-Ghetto Memorial, Mila 18, the Jewish Cemetery, and the restored Nozyck Synagogue. In Cracow we will visit the Jewish Quarter and the Ramah Synagogue, and in Lublin we will visit the famous Yeshiva which is now a Polish medical school.
West Chesters Jewish Community is slowly eroding through assimilation and apathy. Programs like the March of the Living remind us of the importance of maintaining our religious beliefs and identity: religious beliefs and an identity that so many have fought and died for. This trip will amerce me in the spiritualism and traditions of Judaism which I hope will assist me in communicating with other youths in my community of the importance of keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive and of the importance of living as Jews with Jewish values and traditions. Participating in such a moving event and being surrounded with Jewish students from around the world who share the same conscience I do is something that I am looking forward to.
Whether I attend or not, I will do what I can to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive. I cannot help believing, however, that my words will have much more meaning after experiencing first-hand The March of the Living. To feel and be able to communicate with the same passion as I saw and heard in those students who spoke with me at CLTC would be an honor that I cannot express in words.
Return to Dialogue Page