BBYO Represents Largest Teen Delegation on March of the Living
April 26, 2010
BBYO hosted a journey with 100 teens to participate in the March of the Living April 7-22, an international, educational program that brings Jews from all over the world to Poland on Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Memorial Day. The program features a march from Auschwitz to Birkenau, the largest concentration camp complex built during World War II, and then to Israel to observe Yom Kazikaron, Israel Memorial Day, and Yom Ha'Atzmaut, Israel Independence Day.
The BBYO delegation began its journey in Krakow, visiting a number of synagogues, including the Alteshul – the oldest in all of Poland as well as the Krakow Ghetto, which isolated the Jews from the rest of the city. The teens also had a chance to visit with the local Krakow Jewish Community with other March of the Living delegations celebrating Shabbat together. After leaving Krakow the delegation made its way to Auschwitz. Auschwitz’s barracks are set up as museum exhibits filled with items taken from Jews. The delegation described the displays as a “punch to the gut,” as the madness, brutality and savagery caused by the Nazis was felt throughout.
The teens led a meaningful memorial service at Auschwitz paying tribute to the victims and vowing to incorporate the lessons of the Holocaust into their own lives. Later, the teens heard from a panel of seven survivors who told their incredible stories, which was met by major applause and cheering. Two teens then shared their father’s story, of how he was a hidden Holocaust child in Amsterdam, and his amazing rescue.
On their last day in Poland, the teens visited Majdanek, a POW facility that became a death camp. Majdanek was the only camp built without any secrecy and remains intact, and terrifying enough, can be fully operational within 48 hours. The teens led a wonderful service of hope and inspiration, focusing on the transition to Israel, and formed a Jewish star to represent that no matter how hard the Nazis worked to destroy the Jews, they thrive today. The delegation returned to Auschwitz for the March of the Living. Over 10,000 people from dozens of countries marched two miles from Auschwitz to Birkenau as a sign of Jewish pride and vitality, proving that Adolf Hitler’s Final Solution did not work. Following the March, the teens traveled to Israel, providing them with much-needed rest.
In Israel, the teens began their more hopeful part of the journey. Outside Ashkelon, they visited Yad Mordechai, a kibbutz founded by Polish Jews before WWII and named for Mordechai Anceliowicz, the heroic leader of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. In Tel Aviv, they also toured Independence Hall, feeling pride to be welcomed and to be at home in the Jewish state. In Northern Israel, the delegation spoke with those who chose to make aliyah, and discussed how to connect to Israel and support the country. A Holocaust survivor presented each teen with a sneaker keychain to remind them where they have been and why it is so important to share the story with others.
Coming from the March, the teens felt proud and honored to think about their role in helping the Jewish state to thrive. The entire delegation found the trip to be more than a physical march, but a movement forward to stand against intolerance and hatred as a community of young Jews. The relationships built among the teens, and between the teens and Israel were transformational.
For more information on how to become a part of BBYO’s 2011 delegation on March of the Living, please contact Sherrie Stalarow at email@example.com.
Click here to read Greater Jersey Hudson River Region teen leader Cory Bolotsky reflections on his March of the Living journey in “A local teen’s ‘march’ from darkness to light” in the New Jersey Jewish News and here to watch his video about the March. (April 26, 2010)