In preparation for the two-week March of the Living trip that begins on April 20, the South Florida teenage participants met with Holocaust survivors who are joining them on this emotional journey, The Jewish Journal reports.
The March of the Living is an annual educational program which brings individuals from all over the world to Poland in order to study the history of the Holocaust and to examine the roots of prejudice, intolerance and hate. Participants commemorate Yom HaShoah in Poland where they visit Krakow and the sites of the Warsaw Ghetto and of the camps Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II-Birkenau, Treblinka and Majdanek. They also celebrate Israel Independence Day the following week in Israel.
During the pre-trip meetings that took place the past few months, the survivors shared their life stories with the high school students.
Students and survivors of the Center for the Advancement of Jewish Education-Miami’s Leo Martin March of the Living delegation shared their thoughts on these meetings during a recent send-off ceremony at the Holocaust Memorial Miami Beach. This send-off event included a candle-lighting ceremony that a few of the delegation’s teens took part in.
Sandra Feld, 18, of Miami, said, “My grandmother is a Holocaust survivor so it’s [Holocaust] been around me my whole life, but by meeting new survivors and hearing different people’s stories, I’m able to kind of put a big picture together.”
Feld also noted, “I think learning a little more about the Holocaust, hearing stories from the survivors and learning how we should react about everything will help us all prepare for the trip.”
Grace Gilbert, 18, of Miami said, “For me, it’s [meetings with survivors] a true connection because when you learn about the Holocaust and you’re in Miami, you’re miles away from Poland. However, when you meet the people who were there, and you know that you’re now going, it becomes a total bridge and a total first-person situation.”
Holocaust survivor Julius Eisenstein, 97, of Hallandale Beach, said that for him, it’s a must to share his story with the teens from the Miami delegation.
“I have to talk about it because in another few years, all the survivors will be gone,” he said. “I need to make sure that the Holocaust is not forgotten, that the memory keeps on going and that the things that happened to us should never happen to anybody, Jewish and non-Jewish.”
Another survivor on the Miami delegation is Anita Karl of Sunny Isles Beach, who said, “I admire the whole teaching staff because they have taught the children so very much about what happened and about our past.”
“The children have learned so much and they will put everything together once they are there and they see personally what happened,” Karl continued. “I know they are never going to allow this to happen again.”
A few students from the Orloff Central Agency for Jewish Education in Broward County’s MOL delegation were interviewed by phone in regards to their meetings with survivors who are traveling with them.
Rachel Stief, 18, of Weston, found these meetings really “inspiring” and feels they got her “mentally” and “emotionally” ready for the trip.
“They give you the background that you need to go to these places and they give everyone a chance to connect with one another because we all go to different schools,” she said. “It’s better to get to know everyone before going on the trip because it’s such an emotional trip and we need to know each other and have each other’s support.”
Another student from the Broward delegation, Zach Berman, 18, said, the meetings with survivors have been very informative.
“They have really opened my eyes to a lot of different aspects of the Holocaust that I haven’t necessarily learned about before,” he said. “For example, learning about different genocides all around the world rather than just the Holocaust opened my eyes to how this is a continuing problem around the world.”
The Palm Beach County students of the March of the Living Southern Region heard the stories from Holocaust survivors at their MOL preparatory classes.
Jack Rosenbaum, director for the MOL’s Southern Region, which includes all of Florida except Broward and Miami-Dade Counties, said, “Along with the educators, we had the survivors share aspects of their stories but not the whole story because they’re actually going with us so they will share more of it on the trip. However, the students were able to meet the survivors and get a sense of them as people.”