March of the Living chairman calls for increased Australian involvement

June 29, 2012 by J-Wire Staff
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Day school students who took part in this year’s March of the Living have met Holocaust survivors at a special function at the Sydney Jewish Museum…and heard a plea from the MOTL World Chairman for stronger Australian involvement.

Claudia Stein, Olivia Bowen, Daena Ryan, Lexi Wolf, Daisy Kolt and Sasha Buch

Dr Shmuel Rosenman

Those who have experienced the MOTL are called graduates and their parents, families and educators heard moving speeches from them as they voiced the immense impact the program had had on them. Special mention was made of the founders of the Sydney chapter of the MOTL, Sandy Hollis amnd Marion Seftel and the chairman of eight years standing, Robert Simons. The function focused on all those who had participated in all MOTL events in the twelve years of its existence.

The meeting was addressed by Dr Shmuel Rosenman Chairman of March of the Living International who said that Australia was lagging behind other countries in getting behind the project…especially since the country is home to so many Holocaust survivors.

March of the Living involves one week in Poland and one week in Israel and the program is anchored by Yom Hashoah and Yom Hazikaron/Yom Ha’azmaut. More than 10,000 Jews from around the world participate in the initiative.

The meeting  was addressed by survivor Eva Engel who runs the Custodians of Memory program and from Masada student Stephanie Zwi who recanted his personal experience. Six participants from Sydney’s Emanuel School sang an acapella of Shema Yisroel…as they had done on the march.

Stephanie Zwi’s address:

“It was something I’d always wanted to do, having listened to others including my brothers who went in 2006, recount their experiences. I was fortunate enough to have my mum accompany us as one of the doctors on the trip, and, although we saw it through different eyes, we experienced what it meant to march through Auschwitz to Birkenau… and in Israel, to the Kotel together, as mother and daughter, the continuum of the Jewish people. Our family story will continue next week as my aunt and author Rose Zwi has been invited to unveil a plague in the town of Jagre, Lithuania – at the site where over 3000 Jews including members of her family were murdered, and on which her book “Last Walk in Narishkin Park” is based.
One of the key elements of Judaism is remembrance – we truly are a people of memory. It is deeply engrained in our culture, and many of our rituals are based on commemoration. But what exactly does it mean to remember? Why do we commit to these two weeks of our lives, to walk in the shadow of our dark past? Even with survivors by our sides, we can never truly know how it felt to be in Auschwitz, Majdanek, or Belzec. Events can be reconstructed, but memory only occurs for those who were really there. So what really is MOTL?

Eva Engel

To me, March of the Living is not only about the Holocaust. It’s about humanity. It’s about the world. It’s about linking the past to the present.
Year after year we, as the Jewish people pledge, ‘Never Again’. Yet, Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda and more, remind us that in fact, we have made a promise that has not been kept.  In my opinion, it is for this reason that we, the artists and educators of the future, are obliged to keep striving for change, and to continue to believe that as individuals, we can make a difference.
And that’s where a program like March of the Living is so important. It is a reminder that we are citizens not just of Australia or the Jewish people, but of the world. Throughout my journey in Poland, a persistent thought kept resurfacing in my mind. As the sun set over Birkenau on the day of the actual march, I looked up into a clear sky, patterned with magnificent shades of pink and orange. I lowered my eyes, which fell in every direction on this enormous, dark, factory of death, and I thought: If this is man’s capacity for evil… then just imagine his capacity to do good?
It’s these sorts of lessons we take from a journey like MOTL, and are obliged to then use them to engage with other people and communities. MOTL really has inspired me to be active in my life, and to extend myself by seizing opportunities when they are presented.
On our return last year, a few Masada students rekindled an awareness raising group, started by MOTL participants some years ago, that encourages the school community to educate themselves about past and current global injustices through weekly meetings and presentations.
Other opportunities include actively taking forward the testimonies of survivors and their families through the Sydney Custodians Program. Entrusted with their stories, the program enables us to enrich our understanding and unique relationships with the survivors.
And lastly, a group of MOTL participants and other Jewish teenagers are running a children’s holiday camp for the Sudanese Refugee community in July.
So as you can see, MOTL opens doors. It has exposed me to opportunities I would not have encountered on my own, and for that I am incredibly grateful.
In conclusion, I’d like to share with you a part of a letter our madrichim wrote to us upon our return in 2011, that sums up the essence of MOTL.
Quote If you throw water at a rock, it gets wet, and then it dries. If you let it drip on the rock, still, nothing happens, it gets wet and dries, but with time you begin to notice a change. The rock begins to transform and evolve. This is how we see MOTL. It is not an immersive experience that will change your life forever without some effort. No two weeks can permanently change a person on the spot and you shouldn’t expect that from MOTL. Your journey is far from over. You need to take that experience and continue to make it relevant to your lives, so that drip by drip it can transform you. Unquote
The impact of those two weeks on me really is immeasurable. It was, truly, just the beginning of a journey for a lifetime.”





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