Transformative Journeys: the Leo Martin March of the Living

Posted on 05/17/2024 @ 06:00 AM

Tags: Teen Education & Engagement, March of the Living

"It’s one thing to learn about my family and other stories... but to actually see with my own eyes, breathe the same air, and walk on the same stones as my family - shook me to the core."

This reflection from a Miami March of the Living (MOTL) participant encapsulates the profound impact of the program on the 12th graders from Miami-Dade who recently returned from their transformative journey through Poland.


Led by CAJE’s Miami Leo Martin March of the Living program, this annual pilgrimage has left an indelible mark on young minds, enhancing their connection to their Jewish roots and commitment to global Jewish advocacy and Israel.


The journey's profound effect is reflected in compelling statistics: 95% of students reported a strengthened sense of Jewish identity, with a majority deepening their commitment to supporting Israel.


Such responses not only validate the program's educational goals but also highlight its success in fostering a genuine connection to Jewish heritage.


Students shared their experiences, with each narrative expressed in a deeply personal way yet resonating widely:


  • "This was the most impactful and meaningful program I have ever been on, and probably will ever go on," shared one student, highlighting the personal transformation experienced.
  • "I feel activated to fight for Israel and the Jewish people," declared another MOTL participant, reflecting a proactive commitment to advocacy
  • Another student emphasized the broader educational impact: "After hearing testimonies and witnessing the concentration camps in person, I have taken away how to help other people understand what happened, especially non-Jews. This is crucial because Jews make up a small portion of the world. We must all understand together."

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Although the journey typically continues from Poland to Israel, this year’s return directly to Miami did not lessen the journey's impact. Almost all of our students had previously visited Israel, some of them multiple times.

This year, the week in Poland prompted deep reflection among the students.


The majority of participants viewed their return from Poland positively, feeling uplifted and energized to deepen their connection with Judaism and Israel as they arrived back in Miami.


This underscores the journey's significant educational and reflective impact, allowing students to deeply ponder their experiences.

"The direct journey back made me spend more time in reflection, reinforcing my resolve to share this experience with my community and stand firm against antisemitism and for Israel, especially on my future college campus."

As we traversed the solemn grounds of Warsaw, Treblinka, and the haunting remnants of Majdanek, each site served as a stark reminder of past atrocities and the resilience of the Jewish people.


The journey also included a moving March from Auschwitz to Birkenau and a celebration of Jewish life today in Krakow’s old synagogues. These experiences highlighted both the depth of historical sorrow and the enduring vibrancy of Jewish life.


The March of the Living is not just a historical tour; it is a transformative experience that equips students with the knowledge and passion to act as witnesses to history, respond to intolerance, and advocate for the Jewish community globally.


Accompanying the students were Holocaust Survivors Allan Hall and Laszlo Selly, who enriched the journey with their personal histories and profound wisdom.


Allan shared his testimony with the teens at the very location where he was hidden as a child during the Shoah, providing a deeply personal connection to the history they were learning.


Laszlo imparted compassion, love, and support for each student, affecting everyone and instilling in them a fervent desire to be the voice of survivors in the future.


As these young individuals prepare for college and beyond, they carry with them a solemn responsibility: to bear witness to history, to remember, to educate others, and to act.


Their March of the Living through Poland has equipped them to stand in solidarity with Jews and allies around the world, unified by the vow: Never Again.

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CAJE would like to thank the Friends of the March of the Living, our generous donors, our volunteer adult staff and our CAJE March of the Living Committee, chaired by Anita Givner, for all they do, financially and personally, to enable the trip to take place and support our teens on their transformational journey.

Are you interested in joining the 2025 Miami March of the Living or know a rising 12th grader in Miami-Dade or a Miami-Dade school? Click here to provide details, and we'll notify you/them via email as soon as applications are available.