Submitted by: Cincy Journeys

“I was angry and upset. Why were families torn apart, why were people tortured for doing nothing wrong, and why didn’t anybody do anything to stop them?” 

2019 March of the Living participant Sara Margolis, and 26 other high school seniors, were trying to make sense of the visit to the sites of the Holocaust. 

The annual trip, which is organized by the JCC, in partnership with the Holocaust & Humanity Center, is offered to high school seniors who have at least one Jewish parent. Eligible students receive a Cincy Journeys travel grant, which is funded by The Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati and administered by the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati. 

Participants travel to Poland on Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Memorial Day) and march from Auschwitz to Birkenau, the largest concentration camp complex built during World War II. The group then travels to Israel to observe Yom HaZikaron (Israel Memorial Day) and Yom HaAtzmaut (Israel Independence Day).

For the students, this is truly a life-changing experience. Here are just a few of the thoughts from those who took the trip last year.

Shayna Kling: “It was even more special for me because I was chosen to represent the United States in the torch lighting ceremony. To say I was honored would be quite the understatement; it was truly the experience of a lifetime. All I can say is wow. I got to go into the VIP section of the stands and sit next to Holocaust survivors, and I shook all of their hands and told them that I was so proud of being able to participate in such an amazing journey. This whole experience truly puts a lot of things in perspective, and it makes us understand how lucky we are and how grateful we all should be for what we have. I know with 100% certainty that I feel so much more connected to my Jewish heritage and faith. We visited the Zlota Ghetto wall, and we learned about the starvation, the crowding, the decreased rights, and the mass number of people that were uprooted from their homes. Consistently hearing stories about individual lives has definitely deepened the experience so far. Also, I did not realize how horrific life was before Jews even arrived at the concentration camps.” 

Jen Goodman: “While many of us had been to Israel before, this trip gave us an entirely different experience, one that felt ‘more important.’ On our trip to Poland, we had seen the worst of humanity and had some of the most intense days of our lives. It made us ready, however, to see how our people have survived and have prospered in Israel.”

Sarah Kaplan: “The Nazis succeeded in killing 1 million of the 1.5 million Jewish children they intended to eliminate. I can’t comprehend that. No one truly can unless they were there. That’s why it’s so important to be here now. It is through this experience that I can begin to understand. Six million Jews may have been murdered, but I am still here. I am a Jew, and I am alive. That, in itself, is a miracle.”

Matthew Youkilis: “When we see news of concentration camps for Uighur Muslims in China, we should think about what we can do about it. We have to keep marching, educating, and telling stories like those on the shelves at Yad Vashem, and we must be able to say, ‘We’re still here. And we’re making sure others are, too.’”

Drew Lawrence: “All of us are a part of an elite group of Jewish people who have paid homage and respect to those who were murdered in the Holocaust. We are also part of the group of Jewish people who walked out of those camps alive. Thank you for showing us a new meaning to life over the past two weeks: a trip we’ll truly never forget.”

Registration for the 2020 March of the Living is now open. There will be four upcoming informational sessions. The first will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 10, at the Mayerson JCC, with in-home presentations being offered on Oct. 17 and 24 at 7 p.m. and Nov. 3 at 5 p.m.

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