The Mayerson JCC (“the J”) will send a delegation of 25 teens and three adult leaders to Poland and Israel from April 8-22, 2018, to participate in the annual March of the Living. The March begins in Poland, where the group will join other groups from around the world on April 12 to march from Auschwitz to Birkenau, the largest concentration camp complex built during the Holocaust. They will then travel to Israel to celebrate the 70 years of Israeli independence on April 19.
This year also marks the 30th Anniversary of the International March of the Living. More than 260,000 people from 52 countries have participated in the March since it began in 1988. The International March of the Living hosts programs for a range of ages, from high school students to adults. Each year, high school seniors from throughout the Greater Cincinnati area form the Cincinnati delegation; for them, the trip becomes part of a memorable conclusion to their adolescent years and provides them with a new perspective as they move on to the next significant stage in their lives.
The three leaders of the Cincinnati delegation are each uniquely equipped to help teens process the impact of the trip. Lizzie Birckhead, a teacher at Rockwern Academy, is already helping to distill the historical significance of the trip during the delegation’s pre-trip educational sessions. Elizabeth Burstein, a social worker in the Division of Child Psychiatry at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, will help teens cope with the range of emotions that they’ll experience. Phil Ganson, Teen and Tween Coordinator at the Mayerson JCC, will lead the trip for the second year.
Ganson describes the March of the Living as a microcosm of the Jewish experience. “Our teens travel to Poland to explore the stories of our ancestors and the struggles they had to endure. In the time leading up to the march, we are confronted with more questions than answers,” he said. “And then we march. And then after we march, we go to Israel. This is the story of the Jewish people. In times of struggle, we always march forward and show the world that, from darkness to light, we are still here.”
“Taking part in March of the Living this past year was one of the most incredible and life-changing things I’ve ever experienced,” said 2017 March of the Living delegate Sydney Miller. “The part that made it that much more meaningful to me was being able to share this journey with teens in the area. From learning about our Jewish history in Poland to celebrating Israel’s Independence in Israel, I created a bond with every single person that went on this trip.”
This year’s trip will feature some extra special moments in celebration of 70 years of Israeli independence. Reuven Rivlin, President of Israel, will lead the march from Auschwitz to Birkenau in Poland. This momentous anniversary will make the Cincinnati delegation’s week in Israel even more meaningful and festive, as the trip culminates on April 19 in Tel Aviv with the celebration of Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel Independence Day.
The March of the Living Cincinnati is organized by the Mayerson JCC, in partnership with The Holocaust and Humanity Center. Cincy Journeys Israel Travel grants are generously funded by The Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati and administered by the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati. The grants are not need based and are offered to Cincinnati Jewish high school seniors who have not already used their high school Israel travel grant.