A record 23 local Jewish high school students marched from Auschwitz to Birkenau with thousands of international peers in this year’s March of the Living, and Jewish Federation is proud to support their journey. The two-week trip to Poland and Israel gives participants firsthand exposure to their Jewish history and prepares them to become lifelong advocates in the Jewish community. Perhaps most importantly, this experience makes them witnesses to the events and impact of the Holocaust.
Kol hakavod to committee chair, Charlotte Katzen, for engaging so many students this year and for working tirelessly to prepare them for the experience. Thanks as well to Susan Siklos, who joined Charlotte as a chaperone.
Karen James, Jewish Federation Board chair, joined the delegation in Poland for the first leg of their trip. “On Yom HaShoah, I joined the students and thousands of their peers from around the world to march three kilometres from Auschwitz to Birkenau. It was not an easy experience for any of us, but it was one of the most powerful of my life, and surely of theirs.”
“I was inspired by their courage, commitment and leadership,” James continues. “By participating in March of the Living, every single one of them has committed to becoming a witness, knowing there will come a day in their lifetime when a new generation of witnesses is needed.”
Powerful Program Builds Jewish Identity
March of the Living brings several thousand Jewish students from 52 countries together in Poland to study the history of the Holocaust and to examine the roots of prejudice, intolerance and hatred.
After a week in Poland, participants fly to Israel, noting the contrast between our past suffering and the hope of our future. Their experiences in Israel include climbing Masada and visiting the Kotel. On Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, the trip culminates with a final march, this time to the Old City in Jerusalem.
The 2018 local delegation of students in grades 10–12 met weekly for two months last winter in preparation for their journey, and spent two weekends together learning and bonding as a group before travelling abroad.
Now that they have returned home, participants will reconnect with the survivors they got to know during their preparations. Students will share their reflections on their experience, both within their group and with our greater community.
Supporting Young People
Participating on March of the Living is a meaningful experience, but the cost is high. Jewish Federation is able to support our students thanks to the generosity of donors to the Federation Annual Campaign. We offset the cost by $2,000 for each local participant, and offer scholarships to families who need additional help. Jewish Federation also provides support through staff resources, program leader training and participant education.