Last month, I had the incredible opportunity to join 30,000 other Jewish teens and embark on a journey that would prove to be a trip that would be forever embedded in my heart, mind and soul.
March of the Living, a two-week journey for Jewish teens across the globe, is one week in Poland seeing five concentration camps, then one week in Israel touring and celebrating Yom Ha’atzmaut/Independence Day.
The March of the Living highlights the extreme contrast between the darkness of the Holocaust, and the pure joy of Israel’s Independence Day. Throughout the two weeks, I wrote what I was seeing, feeling and learning.
Here is an account of my trip – from my eyes, my heart and my soul.
Auschwitz II – Birkenau, Poland – May 1
It is a beautiful day and some of the teens in my group thought this was unfortunate because they pictured all of the days in Auschwitz with gray skies. They felt it would be more impactful if it was dark and gloomy. That is the point. There were many days that every member of the concentration camp saw glimpses of beautiful sky as stark contrast to the place that is filled with darkness.
This morning we went to Auschwitz, now we are at Birkenau. Standing where 1.2 million Jews died cannot be described in words and it is a feeling that is like no other. It angers me that humanity let this horror happen and I will vow to never forget the stories of our ancestors. I have taken lots of pictures and I will send them all your way soon. We are so blessed to be alive, make every second count.
Auschwitz I, Poland – May 2
Today, I marched with 30,000 other Jewish people for those that couldn’t. We walked from Aushwitz to Birkenau, which is a couple of miles. Seeing 30,000 people with Israeli flags on their backs and pride on their faces is a feeling like no other. We heard from four different survivors, one of which spoke in his clothes from the Holocaust. Take that in. This man had the courage to get up on stage, wearing his clothes he saw thousands slaughtered in, the clothes that remind him of the horror he saw and he spoke to us about the horrible things that happened in the past, and how we must be the generation to end anti-Semitism. We must never forget the persecution we have faced. I am a damn proud Jew – now more than ever. We are so blessed to be able to practice our Judaism freely. More updates coming from time to time.
Ben Gurion Airport, Israel – May 6
As the 12-hour plane ride from Poland came to an end, there was clapping, laughing and pure joy as we had touched down in our homeland – Israel. The past week had been so hard seeing the horrific events that took place and seeing that Israeli flag fly, makes me appreciate this amazing country so much more. It was 4 in the morning, yet we were signing “Am Yisrael Chai” and dancing with smiles on our faces. It is a feeling of pride and happiness, a feeling of belonging.
Jerusalem, Israel – May 8
Night falls, and the streets of the holy land fill with celebration. People filled with cheer and pride, dancing and singing “Am Yisrael Chai.” The smell of shawarma permeates all of Ben Yehuda Street, the sound of singing fills the air, the sight of Israeli flags is overwhelming and the feeling of being a proud Jew is further engraved into my soul. To see a country overflowing with immense feelings of pride is amazing.
It was during the march that I was able to take a more complex look at my Jewish identity, and start to gain connection to the Jewish traditions and prayers. I am forever grateful I was able to go on this trip and I now carry the obligation to tell the stories of the Holocaust survivors. It is my obligation as a Jew and as a human being to never forget. Never forget the stories, the sights, the horrors. I will keep these stories alive. I am the keeper of truth and will pass this down to my children and grandchildren.
I will never forget and I will use my voice to speak for the children who can’t, yell for the people who are silenced in this world and teach to those who don’t know.
Logan Rock is a 2019 graduate of Solon High School in Solon and will attend the University of Cincinnati in Cincinnati in the fall, where he plans to major in business.