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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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