Jewish teens from around the world gathered in Poland to commemorate Holocaust Remembrance Day and in Israel to celebrate Independence Day.

Teens changed by ‘March of the Living’ trip

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Teens changed by ‘March of the Living’ trip

Jewish teens from around the world gathered in Poland to commemorate Holocaust Remembrance Day and in Israel to celebrate Independence Day.

In April, a group of Jewish Mass­achusetts teens joined 10,000 others from 50 countries for the 2019 March of the Living (MOTL). It was a life-changing journey to Poland where they marked Holocaust Remembrance Day with a march to Auschwitz, and days later, traveled to Israel to celebrate its 71st Independence Day.

Participant Ella Glicksman said, “As I reflect on my experience and what I took away, I know there are still people in the world who are anti-Semitic and anti-Israel, but I know that I must stick up for my religion and what I think because if I do not, who will?”

Her parents, Rich and Priscilla, said, “We had anxiety about her being in Poland and Israel. But it was the right choice. The lessons of ‘seeing’ history and speaking up for injustices will be with her for the rest of her life. The organizers did a remarkable job in creating the balance of experiences for the participants.”

MOTL New England Chapter Chair Irv Kempner of Sharon says, “MOTL provides many opportunities not available in other student programs. Now in its 31st year, MOTL has enabled some 260,000 Jewish high school seniors to become more engaged, to learn more of their history and the importance of Israel. We are educating a new generation about the meaning of ‘Never Again.’ Where else can they study the history of the Holocaust and examine the roots of prejudice, intolerance and hatred so up-close and personal?”

The Poland piece included visits to concentration camps and cities that prior to WWII had flourishing Jewish communities. In Israel, the group visited, among other cities, Haifa and Acre. In Jerusalem, they saw the Old City and Western Wall, the 9/11 Memorial, Mt. Herzl, and Yad Vashem.

Glicksman made many new friends from around the world and remains excited about the entire experience: “My experience in Poland was terrifying and inspirational. The feelings I felt in the ash bowl at Majdanek or seeing the stones at Treblinka, the gateway at Birkenau or the gas chambers at Auschwitz, I will carry with me forever. I will never forget anything I saw, felt, touched or heard at any of these places. The people I met in Israel truly changed the way I view my world. I met girls my age who are going to be fighting for their country next year.”

Irv Kempner says, “Teen MOTL participants return better prepared for issues facing them on college campuses – and to fight prejudice wherever it occurs for the rest of their lives.” A CUNY survey of March of the Living participants showed that 95 percent said there was a long-term impact, solidifying their Jewish identity. Most important, it results in greater adult engagement with Jewish community organizations, strengthens their bond with Israel, and heightens commitments to raising Jewish families.

The 2020 Teen MOTL is scheduled for April 17-May 1, 2020. If you know of any high school senior or junior interested in going, contact Director of Teen Programming, Aaron Kischel at (781) 799-4765 or email: kischel7241@gmail.com.

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