Holo­caust Mem­ory: The Next Thirty Years

The Jewish Voice - - SPECIAL FEATURES - By: Phyl­lis Green­berg Hei­de­man

The 2018 March of the Liv­ing marks thirty years since the first 1,500 par­tic­i­pants gath­ered in Poland and marched along the path of mem­ory that marchers have taken each year since.

As we again gather in Poland to march to­gether from Auschwitz to Birke­nau, we are more than merely walk­ing along the 3.2-kilo­me­ter path that con­nects th­ese two his­tor­i­cal sites of our Jewish past. We are march­ing from our past into our fu­ture.

We are vis­it­ing an­ces­tors who rest here on th­ese hal­lowed grounds and keep­ing a com­mu­nal prom­ise to never for­get but al­ways re­mem­ber them, their lives and their legacy. With each foot­step, our pres­ence chants a silent but strong and mean­ing­ful “Hi­neni” – I Am Here.

March of the Liv­ing par­tic­i­pants learn and feel his­tory where his­tory hap­pened. This ex­pe­ri­ence pro­vides a piv­otal and trans­for­ma­tive mo­ment for many and it is for that rea­son we are stead­fast in our com­mit­ment to teach the lessons of his­tory where they oc­curred.

I be­lieve that our pres­ence is felt, our voices are heard and our com­mit­ment to mem­ory is trans­mit­ted to those who per­ished as well as those who sur­vived each year as we make this jour­ney. We re­new an im­por­tant state­ment to the Jewish Peo­ple: we are an­other gen­er­a­tion of sur­vivors com­mit­ted to help­ing pro­tect the fu­ture.

By learn­ing the lessons of the past, we are strength­ened to pro­tect the fu­ture. By vis­it­ing the sites of the past, we be­come wit­nesses to his­tory with tools of truth as de­vices of de­fense. Many March of the Liv­ing alumni have suc­cess­fully taken their place as lead­ers in com­mu­ni­ties around the world. This is a clear trib­ute to this or­ga­ni­za­tion's ed­u­ca­tional phi­los­o­phy and pur­pose, which have helped em­power them to do so. Our be­lief in the im­por­tance of the trans­mis­sion of mem­ory to the con­ti­nu­ity and sta­bil­ity of our fu­ture is a mes­sage we will con­tinue to teach as we march into the next thirty years and be­yond.

The role of the March of the Liv­ing in the fu­ture of the Jewish Peo­ple rests in our com­mit­ment to carry the torch of mem­ory as a means of ig­nit­ing an at­tach­ment to the past as a con­nec­tor to the fu­ture. We are in the unique po­si­tion of ed­u­cat­ing a com­mit­ted group of alumni who can lead Jewish com­mu­ni­ties around the world into the fu­ture. If knowl­edge is power, then mem­ory is truly pow­er­ful. Our younger gen­er­a­tions face fast-paced and ever-chang­ing times, and we take se­ri­ously our re­spon­si­bil­ity to pre­pare them to feel bet­ter equipped to face the fu­ture.

By reach­ing back to their roots and un­der­stand­ing the strength they possess within them­selves, our alumni ex­pand their hori­zons, em­brace new di­rec­tions and serve as changeagents in their classes, com­mu­ni­ties and coun­tries. The many in­di­vid­ual ini­tia­tives and in­no­va­tive projects we have seen alumni cre­ate as a re­sult of their March of the Liv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence is true tes­ti­mony to the power of this thought-pro­vok­ing pro­gram.

The ex­pand­ing of one's mind us­ing reflections of the past as tools to ad­dress the fu­ture is a valu­able as­set for any­one hop­ing to make a dif­fer­ence. We are proud to have been able to pro­vide so many par­tic­i­pants with an ex­pe­ri­ence af­ford­ing them the op­por­tu­nity to un­der­stand the past and con­trib­ute to the fu­ture. We have a firm com­mit­ment to con­tinue our mis­sion for many more years to come in the firm be­lief that the world is a bet­ter place be­cause of the March of the Liv­ing and the grad­u­ates we send out into the world who are in­deed com­mit­ted to mak­ing a dif­fer­ence.

Phyl­lis Green­berg Hei­de­man is Pres­i­dent of the In­ter­na­tional March of the Liv­ing, an im­mer­sive Holo­caust ed­u­ca­tion ex­pe­ri­ence that brings in­di­vid­u­als from around the world to Poland to ex­am­ine the roots of prej­u­dice, in­tol­er­ance and ha­tred.

Rabbi Yis­rael Meir Lau lead­ing the March of the Liv­ing in 2015

March of the Liv­ing par­tic­i­pants learn and feel his­tory where his­tory hap­pened. This ex­pe­ri­ence pro­vides a piv­otal and trans­for­ma­tive mo­ment for many and it is for that rea­son we are stead­fast in our com­mit­ment to teach the lessons of his­tory where they oc­curred.

The 2018 March of the Liv­ing marks thirty years since the first 1,500 par­tic­i­pants gath­ered in Poland and marched along the path of mem­ory that marchers have taken each year since.

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