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March of the Living was life-changing

This story was published in the Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle.

By Elliana Sinykin

Life is precious. I recently returned from a trip that I know will change the way I view life forever.

The March of the Living takes thousands of Jewish teenagers and adults through the concentration camps in Poland, and then to celebrations for Israel's Independence in the streets of Jerusalem and tours around our homeland.

I met incredible people, saw unbelievable sights and learned so much about myself. Trudy, the Holocaust survivor on my bus, said something that stuck with me. She said, "We will cry and we will laugh because that is the Jewish way of living."

A woman who went through one of the worst possible experiences known to mankind still feels that way about Judaism and the way she lives her life. Her beautiful sentiment applied to my experience on March of the Living. I cried more than I ever imagined possible, but I also laughed with all my heart.

I came into the trip already emotional because of a recent loss of one of the most important people in my life. My grandpa, Mel Sinykin, was a true role model and inspiration.

He not only influenced the way I want Judaism to play a central role in my life, but dedicated his time to help others love their Judaism too. His role in our Jewish community and our synagogue impacted so many of us.

I knew that my grandpa would be proud of me for pushing myself to go on this very emotional and tough trip.

At first I didn't think I would be strong enough to face the horrors of the death camps, but then I realized that I didn't need to go on this trip just for myself. I had a responsibility to witness the unimaginable and learn more about the Holocaust to bring back to my community.

I still cannot put into words the emotions I felt in Poland. I still cannot even comprehend the sights I witnessed.

But I can express one feeling for certain that I know I will feel for the rest of my life: unbelievable pride to be Jewish. As the thousands and thousands of us marched, freely, from Auschwitz to Birkenau, hand in hand, Israeli flags wrapped around our backs, Jewish stars around our necks, and with voices so loud singing my favorite prayers, I never felt more proud to be Jewish.

I was able to walk out of those two death camps that day, but in the back of my mind knew that millions couldn't.

Life is precious. My grandpa was one person. He had one life full of worth, countless experiences, infinite love and true impact.

Six million lives, six million different, special and loved people were lost because of the Holocaust.

The March of the Living allowed me to grieve, to witness the remains of where horrible atrocities took place, but also to feel true gratitude.

I will continue to live my precious life, never forgetting the past of my people nor forgetting our resilience as we continue to lead our Jewish lives, yes with some tears, but also with laughter.

Elliana Sinykin graduated from Nicolet High School in June and will attend the University of Texas at Austin this fall. She participated in the BBYO National Teen Delegation to the March of the Living April 13-27.

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