January 23, 2020

I Skipped My Senior Prom to Tour a Concentration Camp in Poland

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When I was 17, I was meant to go on a trip called March of the Living.

March of the Living, or “March” for short, is an international organization and the name of its two-week long trip to Poland, then Israel.

In Poland, you visit many of the concentration camps from the Holocaust, then travel to Israel to learn about the Jewish history and culture that is still obvious and vibrant today.

My sister went on the same trip the previous year and, in my family, similar to many Jewish families in Cincinnati, this Israel trip was an obvious choice to further my understanding and appreciation of Judaism, culture, global perspective, standing up for justice, and much more.

However, I really didn’t want to go on this trip. I chalked it up to not wanting to miss senior prom, and spending my 18th birthday at a concentration camp.

However, it also had to do with not really knowing most of the other Cincinnati delegates attending who all grew up together at a Jewish day school.  I went to public school. I also was nervous about being miserable with all of the bus rides, as I often become nauseated on buses and we would be driving up to five hours a day for two weeks.

I didn’t want to spend my days feeling terrible and didn’t know if I was ready to process all that the trip entailed. Well, I voiced these concerns but that wasn’t enough to get my dedicated parents to waiver in their belief that I should go.

So, at the end of April of 2011, I got on a plane to Poland and drum roll… it was one of the most pivotal moments in my life.

The understanding and desire to learn more, which I gained on that trip, will stay with me forever. The friendships that were forged remain today. In fact, because of that trip, I decided to go back to Israel in 2013 and stayed for 12 months.

Because of those experiences, I found great interest and passion in Jewish communal engagement and Israel education. So here I am, today. Glad that I was somewhat forced to act in a way that disagreed with how I felt. In April of 2020, I will be the trip leader for the newest March of the Living Delegation, and I couldn’t be more excited and honored.

 

(This memoir is from a recent www.mymemoirgroup.com workshop in Cincinnati.)