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March in Israel

Posted on 04/24/2015 @ 03:38 PM

We started off by visiting Mount Herzl on Yom HaAtzmaut, where soldiers, dignitaries and others are buried. There are so many stories there and to hear personal connections through our guides made it all the more heartbreaking. We then met all the thousands of other March of the Living participants in the middle of Jerusalem and marched to the Western Wall in a long, exuberant and cheering procession, with flags waving and everyone singing.

“I love the juxtaposition between the life and death of Mount Herzl, although there are fallen soldiers, there is grass and flowers to live on for their lives.” – Dana Milburn, New Jersey

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“Today, we participated in our second march of our trip, but, this time we were marching for the state of Israel and the freedom of the Jewish people. As one united crew, we were able to march for those who couldn’t. At the end of the night, each participant expressed their love for Judaism and Israel at a festival.”- Parker Forman, Liberty Region and Adrienne Frank, New England Region

“There is no feeling like the one you experience marching with thousands of Jewish teens in the land of Israel. You feel are at home,” – Natalie Simon, New Jersey

“It is an amazing sight to see thousands of teens from across the world march, sing, and celebrate together. The experience is truly magical and empowering; it is life changing.” – Lilli Leight, Miami , Florida

“Today, I experienced the highest point of Israeli culture. I could not be prouder to call myself a Jew while surrounded by Jews from all over the world. I experienced an international sense of community and overwhelming joy!” – Rebecca Bonder, New Jersey

“Today, during the March, I felt completely ALIVE.” – Jack Krivitsky, New England Region BBYO

“It was so amazing to be in Israel for Yom Ha’atzmaut. Nothing can match the unity I felt singing Hatikvah with thousands of other Jewish teens from around the world.” – Noah Seligson, Greater Jersey Hudson River Region BBYO

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“Lucky is the only word that comes to my mind, lucky to be Jewish, and lucky to be in Israel.” – Sarah Sheinkopf, New York

“Israel is a land that is impossible to describe. It grabs onto the moment you land until the moment you leave. The love for the land is a drug. It’s a sickness that afflicts all of us, that none of us want to cure. It’s a feeling that can’t be put into words and can only be experienced here, be it walking around Jerusalem or the kibbutz, Almog, you feel one with the land. Come, and fall in love>” – Truman Brody Boyd, Eastern Region BBYO

“Our days may be limited in the holy land, but, my love for the country will forever be unlimited.” – Corey Nadelbach

“This being my first experience in Israel, I could not have possibly fathomed a better time and better people. The kids I have met on this trip are two-week buddies, but, lifelong friends. Every moment of this trip has been action packed with fun, education, and everlasting memories. This has by far been the most impactful journey I have ever been on, and I know this will have an imprint on my heart forever.” – Bennett Halper, Greater Jersey Hudson River Region BBYO

I’ll be in touch tomorrow! Everything is just wonderful and we are having a great experience. Love from Israel, Sherrie

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Welcome to Jerusalem

Posted on 04/23/2015 @ 10:18 AM

We are all doing great!

"Today made me realize that this is my home. Israel is where any Jew can be a Jew, proudly and freely. There is nowhere else in the world like Israel." - Gabby Mesnier, Mid-America Region BBYO

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To begin our day in Jerusalem, we toasted with grape juice and recited the Shehecheyanu blessing for all the first time visitors to Jerusalem. How special to share this moment together after all we have been through - last week in Poland and now in the beauty of Israel.

We began walking through the Jewish Quarter, viewing the tomb of King David. The site of the famous King and ancestor of the Messiah is located in a thousand year old building on Mount Zion.

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After some shopping and eating time, the teens had a unique experience going through the tunnels of the King David Center, experiencing the narrow and water-filled paths. When the city was defending itself from the approaching Assyrian army in the 8th century BCE, King Hezekiah decided to protect the water by diverting its flow deep into the city with an impressive tunnel system. Hezekiah also plugged the upper watercourse of the Gihon waters and brought it straight down to the west side of the City of David.

"The water tunnels was so far the best part of the trip. It was so exciting and adventurous." - Abby Anderson, Gold Coast Region BBYO

To visit the wall for the first time is a very powerful experience and to have so many of our teens being in Israel for the first time, it was really quite moving.

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The wall is located in the Old City of Jerusalem at the foot of the western side of the Temple Mount. It was one of the four walls that King Herod built to support the 1,555,000 square foot plaza on which the Temple stood. It is a remnant of the ancient wall that surrounded the Jewish Temple's courtyard, and is arguably the most sacred site recognized by the Jewish faith outside of the Temple Mount itself.

"It was amazing to be at the Kotel for the first time. Putting on tefillin and praying amongst so many other Jews was an incredible experience." - Noah Seligson, Greater Jersey Hudson River Region BBYO

"Today was the first time that I went to the Western Wall. Never before have I been so connected to God or the Jewish people. Simply put, Israel is a place where all Jews, no matter what nationality or race, can call home, and I've never been more proud to call myself a Jew." - Michael Rosenberg, South Jersey Region BBYO

"Being my first time in Israel, going to the Kotel was an incredibly special moment for me on this trip. Touching my hands to the wall while thinking and praying was the most unique moment while praying. Leaving the wall with such a peaceful feeling will resonate with me forever." - Leah Kay, Liberty Region BBYO

We just returned to our kibbutz after one of the most exciting nights of the trip - celebrating Israel's Independence! The streets were packed with wall to wall Israelis and visitors, all cheering and dancing in the streets. The teens loaded up on Falafel, Schnitzel and Shawarma and managed to frequent every vendor and Judaica store. It was fun seeing all the goodies they purchased and hearing about the great foods they tasted.

"Today, I honored my grandfather, who was a rabbi, by praying using his Tefillin at the Western Wall. Tonight, I honored the Jewish State of Israel by 'raving' with people from around the world. I love Israel!" - Corey Nadelbach, Northern Region East BBYO

"Tonight was Yom Ha'atzmaut, which is Israeli Independence Day. I thought it was going to be like the 4th of July, but, it wasn't even close to being similar. The pride and joy in this country makes me want to live here." - Mitch Pisarz, Liberty Region

"We falafel night of fun tonight for Yom Ha'atzmaut." - Ali Rosenblatt, Greater Jersey Hudson River Region BBYO

Thursday is our March of the Living procession through the streets of Jerusalem with all the other delegations from around the world. The day will conclude with the Big Event, all the thousands of March of the Living teens, staff and survivors coming together for a huge dinner and concert show, with live music and performers and an awesome fireworks display. I will share all the details of our day tomorrow.

Take care everyone! Sherrie

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Tel Aviv and Yom Hazikaron

Posted on 04/22/2015 @ 12:12 PM

Our second day in Israel is proving that each day is better than the last!

"As soon as I stepped off the plane in Israel, I felt at home. It's incredible how one small country can make anyone and everyone feel like they really belong." - Emily Edwards, Greater Jersey Hudson River Region BBYO

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Tuesday, we began our day in Tel Aviv with shopping time. At the Nachalot Binyamin Market, the teens were thrilled to have time to explore booths with arts, crafts, pottery, Judaica and jewelry. And of course, it would not have been a complete success without falafel, hummus, shwarma and all the many delicacies that Israel is so known for.

"Visiting Shuk Hacarmel and Nachalat Benyamin to see and taste all the amazing colors, foods, sounds, and life of Tel Aviv is truly a magical experience and I love being able to dive into the culture." - Jolie Widawsky, Great Neck, New York

For additional fun, we walked to the beach for some more fun.

"One of the best parts of today was getting to walk on the beach and into the water. Walking into the sea felt so liberating after all of the heavy things we experienced in Poland. I can't explain the feeling, but, I felt like I left a somber part of me behind and finally felt the freedom and love of Israel." - Kali Yonowitz, Pacific West Region BBYO

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To continue learning more about Israel, we visited the historic Independence Hall in which the first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, declared the establishment of the State of Israel. Most of the exhibits are original, while some have been reconstructed in precise detail, transporting us back to that incredible day of events. The names of those who attended the 1948 ceremony are on the dais and chairs; Theodore Herzl's portrait hangs above center stage, flanked by two long Israeli flags. Most of the pictures displayed are part of the Tel Aviv Museum's collection from the day the state was declared. Also on display are various items connected with the ceremony: documents, invitations, recording and broadcasting equipment, memos and more.

As evening swept in, our emotions were tested once more, as we began the memorial eve of Yom Hazikaron, a day of mourning for Israelis who died in wars and through terrorism. We attended a special program at the Latrun army base to hear stories from the families of men and women who lost their lives. It was a truly touching memorial and one that brought the reality to us of what Israelis have endured and how precious life is, and to cherish every moment we have with those we love and care about. The memorial day observance will continue throughout the day tomorrow.

"Following today, I can honestly admit that I have never been truly connected to the State of Israel. As I stood there, surrounded by my peers, remembering the lives of those who had fallen in battle or to tragedy, we came together in a celebration of life and perseverance. We sang Hatikvah, recited the Mourner's Kaddish, and united as one People. My affection for Judaism, as well as my general love for the gift of life has never been stronger. - David Rosen, Liberty Region BBYO

"May their memory always be a blessing. The fallen IDF soldiers, we feel their blessings everyday as we still have our nation to turn to. I felt their blessing as I was able to sing Hatikvah tonight with 4000 fellow Jews at the Yom Hazikaron ceremony. They are another group of people to always keep in mind and never forget. - Ali Rosenblatt, Greater Jersey Hudson River Region BBYO

"The ceremony tonight was so empowering and made me appreciate Israel and its people so much more and I am proud to be visiting a beautiful country, my homeland," - Erin Conway, Gold Coast Region BBYO

"Being at Yom Hazikaron and seeing how many Jewish people from all over the world came together to remember the fallen soldiers and terror victims was inspiring and made me proud to be visiting a country that teats its soldiers and victims as the heroes they are." - Sam Lesnik, Greater Jersey Hudson River Region BBYO

"Trudy, the Holocaust survivor on our trip says, 'We laugh and we cry because that is the Jewish way of living.' Today was definitely a day where I laughed and cried. I laughed with my amazing friends in Tel Aviv, filled with only joy and happiness, and I also cried at the Yom Hazikaron ceremony amongst 4000 others listening to stories of soldiers who died fighting for our country. Whether it be from my laughter in the art market or my tears from the incredible ceremony, I am so grateful to be here in Israel during such an important time." - Elliana Sinykin, Wisconsin Region BBYO

"Seeing the ceremony tonight has made me want to join the IDF. This is something I was previously thinking about, But, I am now much more interested in doing this." - Shawn Maiten, Pacific West Region BBYO

Wednesday, we are off to Jerusalem, continuing our observance of Yom Hazikaron in the Old City and then tomorrow night, we will move from sadness to total merriment as we celebrate Yom Ha'atzmaut, Israel Independence Day. It will be like Mardi Gras and Times Square on New Year's Eve. Can't wait to share it all with you!

Sending our love from Israel, Sherrie

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Welcome to Israel

Posted on 04/21/2015 @ 03:18 PM

We are excited to be in Israel and the teens are doing great!

This past week was one of great learning and understanding. Their insights and impressions were really quite profound and I know that the experience has made a difference in all of their lives.

Sunday, on our last day in Poland, we toured Treblinka, once an extermination camp and now a symbolic representation with 17,000 stones scattered over a massive field (pictured), representing every town, community and shtetl that was obliterated during the Holocaust. The larger stones bear the name of larger towns lost, and the smaller ones are of the nameless small communities that perished. Our teens gathered at the site where the bodies were once buried or burned in a mass pit and conducted a moving memorial in memory of the 800,000 Jewish people who lost their lives in Treblinka.

Treblinka was a major complex, located 50 miles northeast of Warsaw, on the main Warsaw-Bialystok railway line. There were two camps. The Nazis opened the first, Treblinka I, as a small forced-labor camp. The second, larger camp was Treblinka II, built for the sole purpose of extermination. The total number killed at Treblinka was 850,000, making it second only to Auschwitz in the numbers of Jews killed. On August 2, 1943, a group of Jewish prisoner-workers resisted in a planned revolt. Most of the 200 or more who did escape were eventually killed or recaptured. The Nazis closed both camps by 1944 and ploughed over both camps to conceal evidence. There were fewer than 100 survivors.

On our first day in Israel we traveled deep into the Judean Desert to hike Masada. Masada is an ancient fortification in the Southern District of Israel situated on top of anisolated rock plateau on the eastern edge of the Judean Desert, overlooking the Dead Sea. It is the place where the last Jewish stronghold against Roman invasion stood. It was wonderful to see the teens scale the fortress with such a feeling of accomplishment. The Dead Sea, also called the Salt Sea, is a salt lake bordering Jordan to the east and Israel and the West Bank to the west. Its surface and shores are 1,388 ft. below sea level, the lowest elevation on the Earth's surface on dry land. Everyone relaxed and enjoyed floating in the Dead Sea. Rubbing themselves with the mineral mud was a real sight to see!

Today, we go to Tsfat for some learning, a walking tour, and cross-cultural exchange. Later tonight, we mourn with the entire country for those individuals lost in battles, war or terrorism.

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Warsaw Ghetto

Posted on 04/19/2015 @ 12:35 PM

The teens are doing great and spending Shabbat together has been a wonderful, relaxing time for all of us. Teens led us in services this morning and then we toured the Warsaw Ghetto after lunch. Despite the frigid weather, teens were great and we all learned a lot about Warsaw and the fate of the Jewish people here.

The Jewish population in Warsaw was 375,000 (1/3 of the city's total population) when Germany invaded Poland in 1939. It was the second largest Jewish community, next to New York City.

The ghetto existed from 1940-1943, with half a million Jews forced to live in an area suitable for 10,000. Over 100,000 people died from starvation and disease. In the famous ghetto revolt, the first known uprising during the Holocaust, 300 resistance fighters led a massive street battle against 3000 German soldiers, using makeshift explosives and stolen guns. The Germans were held off for a while, but, returned and finally set fire to the entire ghetto. 75 people escaped through the sewers to join the partisan fighters in the forest, but, most were caught and killed. In 1945, Warsaw was liberated. Today, a younger generation of a few thousand is reviving Jewish activity in the city.

On the tour of the Ghetto area, we walked to the Umschlagplatz, a structure representing the station where victims were shipped to Treblinka in cattle cars. Over 300,000 Jews were loaded on trains with promises of a better life, which of course, was a ruse to keep them calm. Continuing our tour, we stood atop Mila 18, the famous bunker of the Ghetto Uprising and teens from Ohio led us in a meaningful ceremony at the Rappoport Monument (pictured), a structure honoring the heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

"As I walked the streets of Warsaw, I saw the sacrifices and the impact the Jewish people had on the city. Seeing the exact spots where those innocent kids and people were taken on trucks to the camps, really hit home." - Seth Lurie, North Texas-Oklahoma Region

"This past week has definitely been the toughest week, but, also the most memorable week. I will never forget what I saw or how I felt. And, I definitely want to take my experience home and share it." - Jane Feldmesser, Wisconsin Region BBYO

When Trudy told us her story, this quote really stuck with me, "We cry, then we laugh, because that's the Jewish way." - Sabrina Ebner, Ohio Delegation

"The first thing that brought me to tears on this trip was when we walked out of the crematorium at Majdanek. Coming out of a small building where so many people were killed, to see such a normal looking town only miles away, broke me. The fact that these two things exist so close to each other didn't seem possible." - Adam Mitriani, Liberty Region BBYO

"This trip has been extremely emotional, but, the most heartbreaking moment for me was at Majdanek, when I actually saw the pit where 18,000 people were murdered. I was not angry when I saw this. I was simply confused and lost as to why some people survived and others perished and will never be able to have children and grandchildren, being that my grandfather is a Holocaust survivor." - Mitchell Pizarz, Liberty Region BBYO

Today is our final day in Poland, touring the site of the Treblinka concentration and extermination camp, followed by a visit to the new Jewish Museum in Warsaw. After dinner, we will head for the airport. I will try to brief you on Treblinka before we leave for the airport.

Thank you for your wonderful feedback - I'm glad that you are inspired by these e-mails. Take care. Sherrie

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A Day of Sadness and then Exhilaration

Posted on 04/17/2015 @ 05:30 PM

Today, our trip to Majdanek was when the reality of the Holocaust really took on a new meaning for all of us. This extermination camp is right in the center of the town of Lublin and it was the one camp that was not hidden in secrecy or subterfuge. The fact that it is exactly as it was when liberated and can be up and running within 48 hours made the visit all the more horrific.

Pictured here is the large crematorium on the far right and the mausoleum (far left) containing 17 tons of ashes, the equivalent of 68,000 bodies (ashes found in cans after liberation that were supposed to be sent as fertilization to Germany).

Majdanek was one of the six death camps built by the German/Nazi occupation forces and the SS in occupied Poland. Originally a POW camp for Soviet prisoners, camp authorities started using Zyklon Bgas to first disinfect clothes and then to murder prisoners, an action that continued until the camp was liberated by the Soviet army in July 1944. Over 800,000 people were transported through Majdanek and the number of murdered victims is estimated to be over 61,000 Jews.

The camp covered over 600 acres of land, surrounded by an electrified barbed wire fence and 19 watchtowers. Up to 45,000 prisoners could be housed in the 22 barracks. The camp also had many satellite camps, and the Nazis planned to expand Majdanek to house up to 250,000 prisoners, a plan that was never realized. During its existence, Majdanek had seven gas chambers, two wooden gallows, a small crematorium and, and an addition in 1943 of a larger crematorium. As in most concentration camps, many Majdanek prisoners died simply from being there. Death due to disease, starvation, exposure to extreme temperatures, overwork and exhaustion, or from beatings by camp guards, were all extremely common. Others were murdered in mass killing actions. Many of the prisoners, mostly Jews, were sent directly to the gas chambers upon arrival.

With Soviets approaching in July of 1944, the Germans liberated the camp, destroying documents, and burning the large crematorium and other buildings, but in haste, they forgot to destroy the barracks and gas chambers. After 1944, the USSR used it as a place for detention of anti-Soviet forces among the Polish population.

"Today, in Majdanek, it was cold, however, no matter how cold I was, I kept thinking of all the prisoners who were there in the frigid winter. Suddenly, the cold wasn't so cold anymore." - Sarah Schecker, N. Bethesda, MD

"Teary-eyed, maintaining a constant lump in our throats, we passed each other in silence. We passed each other understanding that none of us could understand. There was nothing to say. I, for one, could not find the words and cannot see myself finding them soon, if at all." - Ali Rosenblatt, Greater Jersey Hudson River Region BBYO

"Today, we became the survivors." - Julia Hamelburg, Potomac, MD

"I've learned more about myself in the past 3 days than I have had in the past 18 years." - Roger Zlotolow, Greater Jersey Hudson River Region BBYO

"If my emotions were put on a scale from 1-10, I'd say I'm at a 'W', because I have no idea what I'm feeling." - Corey Nadelbach, MD

"The March of the Living is about educating ourselves on the destruction of the past, while celebrating the fact that Jewish pride is still alive." - Erica Berkowitz, Springfield, VA

"We march together as one. Despite all efforts to eliminate our people, we are still here." - Emily Schaerf

Celebrating Shabbat in Warsaw is always a highlight of our time in Poland. Attending services at the Nozyk Synagogue tonight with hundreds of other participants from the March of the Living, we were so inspired to be praying in the only synagogue in Warsaw that survived the Holocaust (originally 400 existed there).

Shabbat is a memory that we will all remember - boys dancing and singing around the bimah and the girls watching from overhead in the balcony, also singing and dancing - it was truly a joyous time after such a day of sadness.

"Coming together as a community in a city with so much Jewish history, to share a meaningful Shabbat, was one of the most powerful Judaic experiences that I have ever been a part of." - Katie Fried, Staff, Michigan Region BBYO

In the morning, we will have our own Shabbat service and then in the afternoon, we will tour the Warsaw Ghetto and visit the Old City of Warsaw. I look forward to sharing highlights with all of you tomorrow.

Wishing all of you a wonderful Shabbat! Love from Warsaw, Sherrie

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We Marched for the 6 Million

Posted on 04/16/2015 @ 12:08 PM

Hello Everyone!

We are all on an incredible high after the actual "March" today. It was truly a sight to see everyone draped in Israeli flags, meeting teens from all over the world and reconnecting with friends from other delegations that they knew before. The Jewish pride that we all felt today will surely be a lasting memory for many years to come.

Starting in the confines of Auschwitz, the shofar sounded, and the thousands from over 40 countries began to walk the same path that victims once walked to Birkenau and their death soon after. The processional was a profound protest conveying the message that Hitler did not succeed. The teens were given wooden placards to write special messages on for placing in the train tracks. The messages were heartfelt and ranged from poetry to names of victims, drawings and words of hope and Jewish pride.

"We will be holding flags of the Jewish State in front of a place where 1,000,000 Jews died. If that is not resilience, I don't know what is. We are strong, and we never forget. We are also the final generation who will hear the words of survivors face-to-face. There is no burden more important and incredible than the fact that we must share their words. Am Yisrael Chai!" - Ben Schulman, Eastern Region BBYO

"In the crumbling remains of the bombed gas chambers, flowers grow from death. There is life. In a place where millions suffered, the Jewish people live." - Melissa Morgan, South Jersey Region BBYO

"I have never felt more proud to be Jewish. Marching alongside my best friends and thousands of others was truly something I'll never forget. Since we are the last generation to hear these stories from survivors, passing on their messages is vital. I now feel prepared to educate others who may have not been as fortunate to experience this incredible trip." - Annie Jacobsen, Boca Raton, Florida

"I love being Jewish and I am proud to be a Jew. Today, I saw a single sign in the train tracks that said a single word - WHY. We will never know why, but, we can ensure that the six million are never forgotten." - Jessica Sklar. South Jersey Region BBYO

Tomorrow, we are touring the extermination camp in Lublin, called Majdanek, and then celebrating Shabbat together. I look forward to sharing everything with you tomorrow!

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Our First Day in Poland

Posted on 04/15/2015 @ 05:38 PM

The teens are adapting wonderfully to our first day in Poland. Due to our three separate flights, the itinerary for today was a bit of a departure from the planned schedule, but, everyone did great and by the time we leave Krakow, everyone will have been exposed to the history and culture of the city.

"It has been a long day of traveling, but, getting to Krakow was very rewarding. I'm excited to start this journey," - Allie Fox, Liberty Region

Today, three of our buses toured the Jewish Quarter of Kazimierz (pictured), the symbol of the wealthy and prominent Jews who had lived in Krakow for hundreds of years. In the area, there are numerous synagogues and old and renovated Jewish institutions.

BACKGROUND: Krakow was the historic capital of Poland from the 10th to the 16th century, and there were Jews in Krakow from the beginning until World War II. During the Nazi occupation in 1939, Krakow became the capital of the Nazi Government. After the Nazis expelled 40, 000 Jews, a ghetto was established (1941) in Podgorze. There were up to 18,000 Jews living in 300 houses, as well as storage spaces, attics, rooms under staircases, and in basements. It was a time of intense cruelty by the Germans and random killings. Fit Jews were sent to a nearby camp, called Plaszow, built on the land of Jewish cemeteries. Our survivor, Trudy, worked in the Plaszow camp. Nothing exists of the camp today, except a massive monument in memorial of the people who died there.

Krakow was liberated on January 19, 1945 and an organization was formed to bring groups of Jewish survivors back to the city. The first group that arrived was a group of seventeen children from Auschwitz who were housed in an orphanage. Today, approximately 1,000 Jews live in Krakow, but only about 200 identify themselves as members of the Jewish community. Despite the small population, interest in preserving Jewish history has been rekindled. A new Jewish research institute was established in the University there and a Jewish Cultural Center was set up in Kazimierz. Every two years, Kazimierz hosts a Jewish cultural festival that has music, dance, film and theater.

"I found it fascinating to start the trip by learning about the Jewish culture in Poland, pre-Holocaust. It was something that I was previously unfamiliar with and it was interesting to see what Pieces of history remain today." - Lauren Keats, Westchester Region

"I decided to go on the March of the Living because my grandparents were Holocaust survivors. I feel that it is important for me to witness first hand, the atrocities the Jewish people went through during the Holocaust. We must remember to never forget." - Rachel Morof, West Bloomfield, Michigan

Tomorrow, we are touring Auschwitz and Birkenau. I know that I will have a lot more to share with you about our experience there.

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Touring Auschwitz & Birkenau

Posted on 04/15/2015 @ 11:10 AM

We are all doing great and we (staff) were very impressed by the respect that the teens showed today and how engaged they were in learning and expressing their thoughts throughout the day.

Beginning our day very early, we toured the Auschwitz and Birkenau camps, located in the town area of Osweicem, 37 miles west of Krakow. Oswieem was 80% Jewish when Auschwitz became a concentration camp in 1940.

BACKGROUND: The Auschwitz concentration camp complex was the largest of its kind established by the Nazi regime. It included three main camps and 44 sub camps, all of which incarcerated prisoners for forced labor, but, Birkenau (Auschwitz II) was the killing center. Auschwitz is the only camp that administered tattoos to its inmates and the famous Dr. Mengele selected and performed medical experiments on the people there. Of the people brought to Auschwitz, only 10% of each transport was not killed immediately, and of all those sent to Auschwitz, only 1% survived. By the end of 1944, two and a half million people had died of disease, starvation, were worked to death or tortured by medical experiment.

Today, the main camp of Auschwitz is a museum with artifacts in each of the barracks - personal items, such as eyeglasses, prosthetics, tallit, brushes, shoes and suitcases. Along with barracks describing living conditions, there is a model of a crematorium and a full display of Zyklon gas cans. Most chilling is the room display of shorn hair spanning across the entire room behind a glass wall.

"Today was incredibly eye-opening and made so many stories from the Holocaust seem real. After seeing Auschwitz, we looked through books of names of victims there. I was able to find Adolph and Zdenka Klein, my great grandparents whose daughter survived on a kindertransport. It was so meaningful to know that they were counted and remembered. They were not lost in the masses. I'm taken aback by the effort put in to remember these people." - Jordan Kotler, Northern Region East BBYO

"You read about all these stories of the concentration camps, but, being here is something else." - Brent Fischbein, Columbia, Maryland

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The massive area of Birkenau is a grim reminder, with burnt remains of the crematoriums and barracks in full view. Walking under the famous arch (pictured) was surreal for most and made the reality of the Holocaust real for everyone. Our time at Auschwitz was highlighted by our survivor, Trudy, telling her story to all of us in a barrack similar to the one she was in 70 years ago. We are so fortunate to have her with us on our journey. The teens are already so enthralled with her and to see them helping her and walking with her, holding her hands, it is a testament to their character and compassion. I know you are as proud of them as I am.

"We must share these stories so the next generation will know, too, what happened." - Sarah Sheinkopf, New York

"We are their revenge! This quote that Ronen (Israeli Guide) said to us made a real impact on my experience today. I am proud to have been able to walk out of all the places our ancestors were not able to walk out of. I'm proud to be able to live my life freely and I'm proud that Hitler didn't win. We did, and the next generation of teens like us, walking in and out of the camps, prove that we as a Jewish people are stronger than they gave us credit for." - Sarah Weprin, North Texas-Oklahoma Region BBYO

Tomorrow, we will visit the area that was once the Krakow Ghetto and then return to Auschwitz for the actual March of the Living walk to Birkenau, joining thousands in a silent protest march to prove that Hitler did not succeed.

I look forward to sharing more with you tomorrow.

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March of the Living 2015 - JFK Airport Departure Day

Posted on 04/13/2015 @ 04:58 PM

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Our Journey in Israel - from Solemn Remembrance to Joyful Celebration

Posted on 05/05/2014 @ 08:13 PM

During the past two days, the BBYO National Teen Delegation has gained a real understanding of Israel's culture, history and challenges.

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Yesterday our day began with a tour of the Atlit Detainee and Detention Camp, established by the British Mandate for Palestine in the 1930s. The Atlit "Illegal" Immigrant Detention Camp tells the story of the struggle of Jews fleeing Europe (Ma'apilim) from Nazi persecution and death, trying to reach British-controlled Palestine, only to be incarcerated in camps similar in appearance to the Nazi camps of Europe. In October 1945, a daring military operation freed the 208 detainees. On the site, the teens toured a recently purchased ship, similar in size and appearance to those used to transport immigrants to Israel, the notorious disinfection facility, a model of the original camp, restored barracks, a computerized information database and more.

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Later in the day, we visited the Beit Ambusa Ethiopian House in Ramleh where we learned about the Ethiopians and their lives here in Israel. They also taught the teens a dance and fed us a traditional snack consisting of red beans and fava beans.

Last night we joined Israelis in observing Yom Hazikaron, Israel's National Day of Remembrance for those who have fallen in battle or to terrorism. We attended a solemn program at the Latrun army base and heard about the lives of five young adults who had died. The teens were visibly moved by the program, which also included musical interludes, and what Israelis have endured. Everyone stood in total silence as the two minute memorial siren rang throughout the country.

"Seeing the ceremony at Latrun was very moving and made me realize the reality of what people our age are doing right here in Israel," Lydia Safir said.

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"The Yom Hazikaron ceremony at Latrun was an amazing experience to see how Israel honors the fallen soldiers and their lives and their commitment to serving our homeland," Tracey Katz added.

Today, we began our tour of the Old City and the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem, as well as a cave experience. At 11:00AM, we stood when the two-minute memorial siren rang, again, watching traffic come to a standstill and drivers get out of their cars to standing in respect along with pedestrians. The highlight of the day was visiting the Western Wall, conducting a joint service and then proceeding to the separated men/women praying areas.

The teens found this experience extremely moving.

"As I touched the Western Wall, I felt such a powerful connection to Judaism that I have been looking for throughout the time," Melissa Mahon said.

Rachel Denenberg added, "It was powerful to stand and pray for all fallen soldiers with hundreds of other people in front of the Western Wall."

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"Going to the Western Wall gave me an unexpected and overwhelming feeling of freedom, power and faith," Olivia Reznik reflected.

As the day turned into night, we celebrated Israel's Independence Day, Yom Ha'atzmaut. housands were in the street cheering and dancing in a mardi-gras like atmosphere.

"I have never seen such pride in a country before," Sydney Gass said. "Israel's birthday made me realize how home I truly am."

"Yom Ha'atzmaut on Ben Yehudah Street was like nothing I have seen before," Alyssa Katz said. "It was a celebration of Jewish and Israeli pride."

Jamie Newman added, "Dancing and celebrating Yom Ha'atzmaut in Jerusalem made me so proud to call Israel my home."

"The past two days served as a microcosm for the entire trip," Josh Freeman said. "Yesterday at the Yom Hazikaron ceremony, we experienced a sadness like no other, as the day serves as Israel's most somber day; and then today, we celebrated Israel's freedom in the most amazing way possible on Ben Yehudah Street. The past two days have shown me how important it is to have Israel as my homeland."

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"These past 24 hours in Jerusalem have been a roller coaster of emotions," Jeff Kahn said. "From experiencing an incredibly moving ceremony for fallen IDF soldiers to moving into celebrating the beginning of Yom Ha'atzmaut on Ben Yehudah Street. It shows the power of the Jewish and Israeli people and how we can move from a time of deep sadness into finding a way to celebrate our peoplehood."

The teens are experiencing so much and repeatedly share their feelings and utter joy at being here in Israel.

"This has been the best experience of my life and the friends I have made are some of the greatest people I have ever met," Hannah Dalsheim said. "I've never felt so grateful for being somewhere in my life."

"I found my faith in God today," Josh Zack added.

Andrea Sklar and Ariana Rothman commented, "The Kehillah created on the March of the Living is one that cannot be replicated anywhere else."

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"Nothing in the world beats Israel," Michael Vivier stated. "From walking in the streets of the Old City, to attending a memorial service on Yom Hazikaron, to dancing the night away on Ben Yehudah Street, the sheer pride that each Jew and Israeli feels in the homeland is incredible."

Tomorrow, we visit Mount Herzel to learn about the special people in our history who are buried there, along with all the other fallen soldiers and dignitaries. And then, we join all the March of the Living delegations from around the world in celebration and another march from the center square of Jerusalem to the Western Wall. There will be music and dancing and guest speakers. The day will culminate with a mega event at Latrun celebrating everyone who participated in the March of the Living - songs, dancing, presentations and unbelievable fireworks!!!

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Beginning our Israel Journey: Masada, Dead Sea, and Tsfat

Posted on 05/04/2014 @ 08:26 PM

We have been through a lot the last few days and coming out of the darkness of the Holocaust in Poland to the Hope and Pride of Israel has been a real journey for all of us. It has been amazing how much we were able to accomplish in such a short time!

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Our arrival in Israel was met with cheers and excitement, particularly from those who were in Israel for the first time. Heading straight for Masada, the first-timers were anxious, but were supported and applauded for making it up and down the mountain. Learning the history and participating in a morning service made it even more inspiring for us and we were so proud of everyone, many who faced the challenge and succeeded in such a great way.

Masada is a rugged, natural fortress of majestic beauty in the Judaean Desert overlooking the Dead Sea. It is a symbol of the ancient kingdom of Israel, its violent destruction and the last stand of the Jewish patriots in the face of the Roman army (73 A.D.). It was built as a palace complex by King Herod the Great, King of Judaea. The camps, fortifications and attack ramp that encircle the monument constitute the most complete Roman siege works, surviving to the present day.

"On top of Masada is where I felt my connection between myself and Israel grow," Eve Sorkin said. "We did a morning service and I have never felt more pride as a Jewish teen."

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Only moments after the Masada climb, we drove to the Dead Sea for relaxation, fun and sun! The teens enjoyed rubbing the mud on their bodies and floating in the water. Masada and the Dead Sea was a great introduction to the beauty of Israel.

"The Dead Sea was a totally unique experience, covering yourself in the mud and floating effortlessly in the water," Bruce Dennis reflected. "It will be something I will make sure that my kids do. Hopefully, they won't get water in their eyes."

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Our second day, we toured the religious city of Tsfat with its curving roads intertwined with synagogues, artisans and wonderful food kiosks. Visiting the synagogues and hearing the stories about each inspired us. How lucky we were to visit Avram, a local artist and philosopher. We were mesmerized by him and his art and how it connects to Kabbalah.

Tsfat (Safed) is a city in the northern district of Israel, located at an elevation of 900 meters. It is the highest city on the Galilee and in Israel. Since the 16th century, Tsfat is considered one of Judaism's four holy cities, along with Jerusalem, Hebron and Tiberias. Since that time, the city has remained a center of Kabbalah (Jewish Mysticism).

"I was waiting for my connection with Israel, and I found it in Tsfat," Cassie Koplow said.

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There is nothing like Shabbat in Israel. We walked to the beach for a sunset service on Friday night, led by Michael Vivier, Ryan Dishell and Sam Perlen, and later everyone joined in singing to celebrate being in Israel. Our morning service was on the lawn of our guest house and we had two interactive sessions to discuss various topics on Israel and on Identity. The afternoon was spent with sunbathing, sports, more time at the beach and enjoying time relaxing. Our Havdallah service concluded with more singing and then we drove to the town of Akko for a disco boat ride with music and dance.

"I felt at home, as I sang my favorite prayers sitting on the beach in Israel, celebrating Shabbat with my new best friends," Jillian Lindenberg said.

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Bonding in Israel

Posted on 05/02/2014 @ 03:57 PM

The BBYO National Teen Delegation continues to bond over shared experiences from Poland. In Israel, they are enjoying a celebration of vibrant Jewish life. Check out these photos of the teens hiking up Masada, floating in the Dead Sea and exploring the Tzfat artist colony!

Celebrating Israel at the top of Masada

Celebrating Israel at the top of Masada

Enjoying the view from the top of Masada

Enjoying the view from the top of Masada

Group bonding on Masada

Group bonding on Masada

Floating in the Dead Sea

Floating in the Dead Sea

Exploring the Tzfat artist colony

Exploring the Tzfat artist colony

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From Poland to Israel

Posted on 04/30/2014 @ 07:00 PM

After nearly a week in Poland, the BBYO National Teen Delegation is on its way to Israel!

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Before leaving for Israel, the teens spent the day in Warsaw. A highlight was helping to clean up the Jewish Cemetery of Warsaw - one of the very few to have survived World War II. The Okopowa Street Jewish Cemetery is one of the largest Jewish cemeteries in Europe.

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Founded in 1806, the cemetery consists of 83 acres and contains more than 200,000 marked graves as well as mass graves of victims of the Warsaw Ghetto. Many of these graves and crypts are overgrown, having been abandoned after the German invasion of Poland and subsequent Holocaust. Although the cemetery was closed down during World War II, after the war it was reopened and a small portion of it remains active, serving Warsaw's small remaining Jewish population.

Upon their arrival in Israel, the teens will enjoy an early morning hike up Masada via the Roman Ramp and tour the desert mountaintop fortress. They'll also enjoy swimming under the desert waterfalls at Ein Gedi Nature Reserve and floating in the Dead Sea.

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Our Day at Majdanek

Posted on 04/29/2014 @ 09:12 PM

After an emotional two days visiting Auschwitz and Birkenau and then participating in the March of the Living, BBYO's National Teen Delegation spent a meaningful day in Majdanek. For Michael Hirsh, "this experience has allowed me to feel feelings that I have never felt before."

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Today, Majdanek is a chilling reminder of what transpired in the Holocaust. The teens walked through the gas chambers and crematorium and seeing the blue residue from the gas and scratch marks on the walls was when reality really set in for many of them.

"As my fingertips brushed against the walls of the gas chamber, I could feel the energy of my ancestors seeping through my veins," Sophie Levy said.

Majdanek is one of the six death camps built by the German/Nazi occupation forces and the SS in occupied Poland, located in the city limits of Lublin, Poland. The camp's official purpose was to destroy enemies of the Third Reich, help carry out the extermination of the Jews and to take part in the deportations and "resettlement" of Poles. Originally a POW camp for Soviet prisoners, camp authorities started using Zyklon B gas to murder prisoners there, and the camp continued to serve that purpose until it was liberated by the Soviet army in July 1944.

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Among all the death camps, Majdanek is the best preserved and could be in full operation within 48 hours. The number of victims is estimated to be 78,000, including 61,000 Jews, 12,000 Poles and 5,000 Soviet prisoners of war. Majdanek covered 667 acres of land and housed 45,000 prisoners at one time, with the plan to expand to house 250,000 prisoners (which never happened). More than 500,000 people of 54 different nationalities and 28 countries were sent through Majdanek, including U.S. soldiers.

The experience has been meaningful and emotional for all involved. "From the first step into Auschwitz to the last step in Majdanek, the whole experience has been very humbling, and lots of other emotions that could fill up multiple pages if I wrote them down," Ben Sass reflected.

Seventeen tons of ashes are openly displayed in a Mausoleum at Majdanek. The seventeen tons of ashes is the equivalent of 68,000 bodies. The ashes were found in barrels during the camp's liberation and were to be sent to Germany to be used as fertilizer. Instead, the ashes are permanently memorialized and honored in a spectacular way.

A bathtub in the crematorium remains in its exact place, for the commandant of the camp who bathed there among the ovens because it was the warmest place in camp. Another terrible sight was the rolling hills containing the remains of 48,000 bodies, the result of a killing massacre by the SS as a retaliation for the uprising that occurred in the Sobibor camp.

At the end of a long day, the teens reflected upon their experience. Jamie Newman said, "It's impossible to wrap my head around the six million and all of the terrible things that happened at these camps."

Olivia Resnik added, "Never have I been so devastated by what's around me and what happened, yet, proud of my people."

"Hearing stories from my peers and true survivors is inspiring, but, physically being in the camps is a life changing experience that will remain in my heart forever, as I spread what I learned about the Holocaust to generations to come," Jillian Lindenburg said.

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"Today at Majdanek I saw family photos of the victims at that death camp," Laney Sheffel said. "Seeing those photos that greatly resembled my own family photos truly humanized and solidified my perspective of the Shoah."

While it has been difficult for some of the teens, it is inspiring to see the teens supporting each other. In addition, Trudy Album, a Holocaust survivor who has been accompanying the group during this difficult week, has served as a source of inspiration. "The survivors gave me the strength to continue today when I couldn't do it on my own," Hailey Wilson said.

Rachel Rickman sums up what many teens are feeling: "To experience what I have so far has changed me for the better."

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Yom HaShoah - The Day We March

Posted on 04/28/2014 @ 07:00 PM

Today we observed Yom HaShoah, established in 1951 by the Knesset (Parliament) in the state of Israel to be world Jewry's annual remembrance day for the victims of the Holocaust. The day coincides with the date of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. This is one of only a few official days that was added to the Jewish calendar in more than 2000 years.

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It is so fitting that the March of the Living is held at this time each year. With 10,000 people representing 40 countries, the impact and visual was incredible - Jewish people gathering from different countries, cultures and languages, secular and religious, and every level of religious observance, uniting to share in this memorable and impactful Jewish experience. Teens draped in Israeli flags and others waving theirs, we knew that they were doing something very profound.

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It was a great moment of pride for our group to walk together representing America and Canada with our BBYO banner held high - the same walk that so many Jewish victims walked unknowingly to their deaths. The "march" began in Auschwitz with the sounding of the shofar and walking under the infamous gate, "Arbeit Mach Frei" (Work will set you free). During the two kilometer walk, there is a point where everyone crosses over a bridge and the view is a breathtaking sight - in front and behind us, we could see the multitude of delegations wearing their blue "March of the Living" jackets and walking in solidarity.

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As we approached the famous entrance into Birkenau, teens began lighting candles and placing messages written on wooden placards along the railroad tracks: "In memory of the six million" and "Never Forget," to name a few. Inside the camp and past all the barracks, amidst the ruins, a ceremony was held in honor and memory of the Hungarian Jews who lost their lives. The program included solemn music and stirring speeches from survivors and dignitaries, plus an array of videos playing on huge screens, recognizing Hannah Szenes and Raoul Wallenberg for their heroic efforts to help save Jews. There was the beautiful lighting of six massive torches to represent the six million of our people who perished, and the most inspiring moment was when the thousands of us stood and sang Hatikvah (the Israel National Anthem) together as one strong, loud voice.

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Reflections from the March of the Living

Posted on 04/28/2014 @ 06:00 PM

"Nothing has empowered me more than walking out of Auschwitz. Thank you BBYO." - Etelka Ziegler Hazen, Toronto

"I think it's absolutely absurd to think that 10,000 of us marched into Auschwitz II today and were able to leave. We were standing in a place that, when it was fully functional, could exterminate twice as many people IN ONE DAY! It's absolutely flooring." - Alex Schwartz, New York

"Today I walked with thousands out of Auschwitz and into Birkenau, proudly waving an Israeli flag, epitomizing hope in a place where people used to doubt the existence of hope at all."- Marlee Hirsch, New Jersey

"I refuse to sit, but, not just for my beliefs. I refuse to relax in a place where no one got to rest, and so I stand." - Kyle Glassman

"I don't think I've ever experienced so many unexplainable things over such a short period of time. We all know what we're seeing and understand what it means, but it has so much more significance than what I think any of us can fathom. But, I know that once we all grasp that, we'll really realize what an incredible trip this is."- Alyse Weinstein, Ohio

"Today, the Hungarian president called Auschwitz-Birkenau the largest cemetery of Hungarian Jews. Looking back at the plaques that 10,000 people wrote in honor of the six million people who perished at the hands of the Nazis looked like little gravestones in honor of all those who perished in the camps. It gave me chills." - Hannah Sprung, Wisconsin

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Reflections from Auschwitz

Posted on 04/27/2014 @ 09:00 PM

"I'm not sure what to expect for the next week and a half, but, these first few days have shown me that regardless of what I go through and see, everyone will be there for each other. We are together as one." - Zach Goland, New Jersey

"I still can't process the fact that I'm in Poland, a place where part of the genocide of Jews took place. However, being a Jew visiting Poland today makes a bold statement. U.S. Jews are still alive and thrive." - Eric Zeiri

"Being able to see it makes learning it have more meaning." - Danny Trompeter, Pittsburgh

"There are no words to describe my experience in Auschwitz today. In any given instant, I mourned for the tragedy, gave thanks for the blessing that is the State of Israel, and simply gave in to an overflowing emotion I cannot name. I cried. I cried a lot." - Itai Almor, South Carolina

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A Solemn Experience in Auschwitz

Posted on 04/27/2014 @ 08:00 PM

Our day began with first driving by a remnant of the Cracow Ghetto wall, then traveling nearby to view the entrance to Shindler's Factory. We also drove to the site of the Plaszow concentration labor camp and Trudy Album, a Holocaust survivor, told of the time she spent in that camp. The camp was plowed under when liberated and all that remains is an architectural monument memorializing the people who worked and died there.

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Our morning continued with an hour and a half drive to the Auschwitz complex.

Auschwitz was the largest Nazi extermination and concentration camp, about 37 miles from Cracow. One-sixth of all the Jews murdered by the Nazis were gassed at Auschwitz. The camp was established in April 1940 from existing army barracks. There were three main camps and 45 smaller sub camps. Auschwitz I held mostly political prisoners and criminals. An experimental gas chamber and crematorium were there, but most of the killing was done at Auschwitz II (Birkenau) from 1941-44. This was where the infamous Dr. Mengele would make his selections - a wave to the right meant death and a wave to the left meant slave labor. Only 10 percent of each transport was not killed immediately. Auschwitz III and the area sub camps were used primarily for slave labor. There was an uprising in October 1944, with the victims killing several SS men and setting fire to one of the crematoriums; 600 fled, but most did not survive. Gassing ceased in the camp and by the end of 1944, two and a half million had died there from disease, starvation, overwork, torture, gas, or were shot, hanged or injected with lethal drugs to the heart. Of all those sent to Auschwitz, only one percent survived. When the Soviets entered the camp in January 1945, they discovered more than 800,000 dresses, 348,000 men's suits, 38,000 pairs of men's shoes, more than 5,000 women's pairs of shoes and 7,000 kilograms of human hair. 7650 sick and exhausted victims were saved.

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Today Auschwitz is very museum-like with numerous exhibits in the original buildings. On display are actual belongings from the victims who were transported there - suitcases bearing their Jewish names, Talits, glasses, a room of their shoes and another full of hair. Standing in the gas chamber and the crematorium was when reality set in for everyone and the importance of this trip.

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Continuing on to Birkenau, we gathered in a barrack to hear Trudy's story of her youth, her family and her Holocaust experiences. She is truly an amazing woman and an inspiration to all who meet her. The teens are so kind and protective of her, all wanting to hold her hand when we walk great distances. Those special moments with Trudy are highlights of the trip each year.

To conclude our time there, the teens from Bus 1 led a ceremony of special poems, readings and song, as well as the Mourner's Kaddish and Hatikvah.

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Reflections from Cracow

Posted on 04/26/2014 @ 10:00 PM

"I was walking through the streets of Krakow and helping BBYO's survivor, Trudy, walk with our group. She thanked me for helping her and said 'I'm grateful to have you all here as my guardian angels.' It was so sweet and so amazing but I told her that she is our guardian angel. We are so lucky to have her here; Trudy is honestly an incredible person! I love her so much already and can't wait to continue this journey with her." - Molly Kazan, Wisconsin

"As I sit in the Krakow deportation site, the feeling is unreal, complete numbness." - Carley Fritsch, Pittsburgh

"Bearing witness is an understatement to what we're doing here." - Brandon Cotter, Dallas

"Before leaving for the March, I thought I knew everything I needed to about the Holocaust, but now that I'm here, I'm starting to realize that there's so much left to learn and I can't wait to do just that on this trip." - Eliana Dubosar, Boca Raton

"During Friday night services, people were singing and dancing. Watching hundreds of Jews celebrating our faith made me feel proud to be Jewish and finally free." - Daniella Eglash, Pittsburgh

"I am looking forward to being able to understand life in the eyes of those who came before me." - Natalie Engel, Houston

"It is our goal to live to learn to teach." - Brandon Bell, Philadelphia

"I hope to open my eyes to the world and have a voice." - Sarah Goodman, Cleveland

"We've only been together for three days, but I feel so connected to everyone else on this trip already." - Carly Taub, Michigan

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Shabbat in Cracow

Posted on 04/26/2014 @ 10:00 PM

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On Friday evening we walked to Kaszimierz, the old Jewish Quarter of Cracow, where we joined other delegations in prayer and song at the Tempel, the only reform synagogue in Cracow, built in 1860 and completed in 1862. It was a wondrous sight to see the packed sanctuary with boys and men singing and dancing downstairs and the girls doing the same in the balcony. To know that we were able to walk freely through the streets of Cracow and pray in a once vibrant community was a memory that we will all remember. Returning to the hotel for our Shabbat dinner and Oneg Shabbat ended our first evening in Poland on a strong feeling of community.

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On Saturday afternoon, we toured Kaszimierz and discussed the vibrant Jewish community that existed there for hundreds of years. It was the center of strong Jewish learning and culture, Zionism, and the first Jewish publishing house. When Germany invaded Poland, there were 60,000 Jews living in Cracow, almost one-fourth of the total population of the city. Because the Nazis set their headquarters in Cracow, the city was not destroyed and many of the original Jewish sites remain today.

From Kaszimierz, we walked the same route by foot that the Jews were taken and confined to a Ghetto in the Podgorze district in 1941. We saw the exact site of where Jews lived and the place they gathered for transport to various camps, Belzec, Auschwitz and Plaszow.

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We heard the story of the pharmacy at the border of the ghetto that was run by a non-Jewish man (Tadeusz Pankiewicz) and his two assistants. The Germans wanted to close the pharmacy when the ghetto was formed, but, Tadeusz was forced to bribe them continuously to keep it open. The back door of the pharmacy became a secret passage and hideaway for Ghetto Jews. Tadeusz and his assistants helped smuggle food, medicines and necessary items to the people in the ghetto and he was ultimately responsible for saving hundreds of Jews with forged documents. In recognition of his actions, he was recognized in 1983 as one of the Righteous Among the Nations.

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Saturday evening, a wonderful Havdallah service was led by some of our teens that also included our survivor, Trudy Album, who told some of her story of life in Cracow before she lit and held the Havdallah candle. It was especially poignant for Trudy, as her granddaughter Zoe was in attendance, having travelled from school in Spain. When the service was over, the teens broke into song and the hotel was filled with Ruach.

At the conclusion of Shabbat, we welcomed several Jewish teens from Poland to share their experiences and talk about life in Poland today as a Jewish teen. Our teens had great questions for our guests and the rapport was a pleasure to see.

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BBYO Delegates Have Arrived in Poland

Posted on 04/25/2014 @ 11:00 AM

We are happy to announce that all of our delegations have arrived safely in Poland.

Throughout the trip we will be providing you with insights from our participants. In addition, we want to remind you to keep checking for new pictures. The highlights are shared on Facebook and you also can view more photos on our SmugMug account. Albums on SmugMug are organized by bus. Please be patient as our staff is doing their best to upload pictures as internet permits.

Shabbat Shalom!

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BBYO Teens Heading to March of the Living

Posted on 04/24/2014 @ 04:54 PM

Tags: 2014

More than 130 teens making up BBYO's National Teen Delegation to the March of the Living are on their way to Poland this evening. The teens have high expectations for their upcoming journey.

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“I’ve known people who have gone on March of the Living in the past, and have heard it is really a life-changing experience," Danny Rosenberg, a senior from Kansas City, Missouri, said. "I can’t wait to share my own experience with my friends and family once I get back!"

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The teens will spend their first week in Poland learning about Jewish communities of the past and visiting concentration camps. To mark Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, teens from more than sixty countries will take part in a moving two-mile "March of the Living" from Auschwitz to Birkenau, concluding with the singing of Hatikvah, which reaffirms "Am Yisrael Chai - The Jewish People Live."

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“I’ve been to a lot of different Holocaust memorials in the past, and each one has impacted me differently," Josh Zack, a senior from Kansas City, Missouri, said. "I’m really looking forward to seeing how going to Poland on March of the Living will be a unique experience. I hope this will give me a better understanding what us, as Jewish people, have been through, and I will gain more appreciation and not take for granted our freedom."

After this emotional week, the teens will fly from Poland to Israel and will join millions of Israelis in celebrating Yom Ha'Atzmaut, Israel's 66th Independence Day festivities. During their week in Israel, the teens will enjoy the major highlights of the country including Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and the Dead Sea.

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Tori Hoffman, a senior from Dallas, Texas is looking to gain a lot out of this trip. “I heard from a lot of people that March of the Living was a life-changing experience, and I wanted to see for myself how this could transform me," Tori said in anticipation. "I’m mostly looking forward to going to Israel to connect deeper to my Jewish roots and experience Israeli culture."

Check this blog regularly throughout the next two weeks for updates from the teens and their staff during this amazing journey.

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March in Israel

Friday, April 24 - We started off by visiting Mount Herzl on Yom HaAtzmaut, where soldiers, dignitaries and others are buried. There are so many stories there and to hear personal connections through our guides made it all the more heartbreaking. We then met all the thousands of other March of the Living participants in the middle of Jerusalem and marched to the Western Wall in a long, exuberant and cheering procession, with flags waving and everyone singing.

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Welcome to Jerusalem

Thursday, April 23 - To begin our day in Jerusalem, we toasted with grape juice and recited the Shehecheyanu blessing for all the first time visitors to Jerusalem. How special to share this moment together after all we have been through - last week in Poland and now in the beauty of Israel.

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Tel Aviv and Yom Hazikaron

Wednesday, April 22 - Our second day in Israel is proving that each day is better than the last!
"As soon as I stepped off the plane in Israel, I felt at home. It's incredible how one small country can make anyone and everyone feel like they really belong." - Emily Edwards, Greater Jersey Hudson River Region BBYO

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Welcome to Israel

Tuesday, April 21 - We are excited to be in Israel and the teens are doing great! This past week was one of great learning and understanding. Their insights and impressions were really quite profound and I know that the experience has made a difference in all of their lives.

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Warsaw Ghetto

Sunday, April 19 - The teens are doing great and spending Shabbat together has been a wonderful, relaxing time for all of us. Teens led us in services this morning and then we toured the Warsaw Ghetto after lunch. Despite the frigid weather, teens were great and we all learned a lot about Warsaw and the fate of the Jewish people here.

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A Day of Sadness and then Exhilaration

Friday, April 17 - Today, our trip to Majdanek was when the reality of the Holocaust really took on a new meaning for all of us. This extermination camp is right in the center of the town of Lublin and it was the one camp that was not hidden in secrecy or subterfuge. The fact that it is exactly as it was when liberated and can be up and running within 48 hours made the visit all the more horrific.

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We Marched for the 6 Million

Thursday, April 16 - We are all on an incredible high after the actual "March" today. It was truly a sight to see everyone draped in Israeli flags, meeting teens from all over the world and reconnecting with friends from other delegations that they knew before. The Jewish pride that we all felt today will surely be a lasting memory for many years to come.

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Our First Day in Poland

The teens are adapting wonderfully to our first day in Poland. Due to our three separate flights, the itinerary for today was a bit of a departure from the planned schedule, but, everyone did great and by the time we leave Krakow, everyone will have been exposed to the history and culture of the city.

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Touring Auschwitz & Birkenau

Wednesday, April 15 - Beginning our day very early, we toured the Auschwitz and Birkenau camps, located in the town area of Osweicem, 37 miles west of Krakow. Oswieem was 80% Jewish when Auschwitz became a concentration camp in 1940.

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March of the Living 2015 - JFK Airport Departure Day

More than 120 teens making up BBYO's National Teen Delegation to the March of the Living are on their way to Poland this evening. The teens have high expectations for their upcoming journey. March of the Living is finally happening! Today is the day, and our national teen delegation is coming together at the Airport. Elana and Anya are most looking forward to "meeting new people from around the world and connecting on an even deeper level once we arrive in Jerusalem."

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March of the Living Blog

Throughout the trip we will be providing you with insights from our participants. In addition, we want to remind you to keep checking for new pictures. Please be patient as our staff is doing their best to upload pictures as internet permits.

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