This week we get advice from Allie Michel, 18, a senior at Providence High, who is also the international vice president of programming for the Bnai Brith Youth Organization. BBYO aims to involve Jewish teens in more meaningful Jewish experiences. Allie has been a member of BBYO for four years and will be attending Indiana University in the fall. Here, she details her experience during a recent 16-day trip to Poland and Israel, called the March of the Living.
Allies story: The bone-chilling silence of the gas chambers, the fingernail scratches of desperation against the walls and the tens of thousands of human ashes piled up before my eyes still could not help me fathom the cruel atrocity of the Holocaust.
A few weeks ago, I participated in the March of the Living with 200 teens from the Bnai Brith Youth Organization, (for) which I currently hold the position of International Vice President of Programming, representing over 38,000 teens around the world. By traveling to Poland and Israel for 16 days to further my understanding of the Holocaust and the creation of the state of Israel, I saw firsthand the struggle and pain the Jewish people dealt with and still face today. I chose to embark on this journey because both of my grandfathers were Holocaust survivors my grandfather Irving Mond, who was a Charlotte resident, volunteered his time with schools, churches, universities and other individuals who wanted to hear (of) his heroic escape from World War II.
During my time in Poland, we walked through the old Jewish quarters of cities, entering synagogues and schools . We toured concentration camps, stood in barracks and gas chambers . But the most emotional part was that we were able to do something most people were never able to do: leave. On Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Memorial Day, our delegation joined with 10,000 people from around the world to march, hand in hand, from Auschwitz to Birkenau .
After a week in Poland, we transitioned from the intense education of the Holocaust to the overwhelming celebration of the state of Israel. Traveling the streets, touring museums and listening to speakers helped each participant gain a better understanding of the struggles Israel faces . I climbed Masada, swam in the Dead Sea and put my wishes in the Western Wall. On Yom Haatzmaut, Israeli Independence Day, we celebrated with thousands of people within the streets of Jerusalem, singing and dancing the night away. On that night, I felt so much pride to be Jewish .
The March of the Living was the most life-changing experience for me. It taught me that no matter the struggle, as long as we stay true to our faith and persevere, we as individuals can overcome any obstacle. After the March of the Living, I feel that it is my responsibility to tell the stories to ensure that no one will ever forget, and that the Holocaust, or any genocide, will (never) happen again.
Allies advice to teens: It is important for teens to impact their communities by finding their passion. Whether its volunteering their time at local organizations, publicizing with advocacy, or just simply raising money, teens around the world can affect positive change within their communities.