By Karyn Zimerman, Cincy Journeys Grants Manager
Managed by the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati and funded by The Jewish Foundation of Cincinnati, Cincy Journeys high school Israel travel grants change lives—take it from the teens who traveled on March of the Living, a trip that sends Jewish high school seniors to Poland on Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Memorial Day), where they march from Auschwitz to Birkenau, the largest concentration camp complex built during World War II. Then, the same group travels to Israel to observe Yom HaZikaron (Israel Memorial Day) and Yom HaAtzmaut (Israel Independence Day). The annual trip is organized by the Mayerson JCC, in partnership with the Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education. What motivated last year’s participants to embark on this journey? Here’s what they had to say:
- I want to pay my respects to my German ancestors who suffered in the Holocaust. This trip is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
- I have never really had much involvement in the Jewish religion. I go to Sunday school a little more than half the time, and I go to services on the High Holidays. However, I have not found my Jewish identity. I feel that March of the Living will allow me to discover my Jewish identity by going to concentration camps and visiting Israel.
- I hope to take part in this opportunity to experience firsthand this transformative trip and learn more of the terrible occurrences of our culture's past. I also hope to experience the thriving community within Israel that our people have created out of the ashes of such terrible hardship.
- For thousands of generations, Jews have known that our destiny lies in the Holy Land. Israel's pull is one toward the future. It's a hope in the air that great things lie ahead for the Jewish nation, and it's going to happen there. I would love a chance to be a part of those great things.
- I think it is very important to try to understand the controversy that involves Israel, and physically being there would allow me to gain great perspective that I will be able to take with me to college so I can stick up for what I think is right.
- This trip combines our Jewish identity (Israel) with our sad Jewish heritage (the Holocaust). Seeing these two contrasting events together will help in connecting me with the identity that I have been taught. It will help take the Jewish life given by my family to turn it into the life I build for myself.
- Throughout my life I have heard several survivors speak about their horrific stories, but there are only a few left, and in a couple years there will be none. It is our job to make sure that these stories will still be heard and remembered for future generations. The March of the Living will give me an opportunity hear these last stories in the place where it all occurred. I hope by participating in the march that I will better understand the past of my people so that I can be a Jewish leader for the generations to come.
- I believe it is important to connect with my Jewish roots in these places of triumph over adversity. I think it is important to establish a network of active and involved young members of the Jewish community to consolidate a citywide, as well as international, congregation; and to experience these important sites together to help bring this congregation together.
For more information about how to apply for a Cincy Journeys Israel travel grant, contact Karyn Zimerman at email@example.com, or visit our website: www.cincyjourneys.org. For more information about March of the Living, visit: www.mayersonjcc.org/march-of-the-living/.