"A Show of the Force and Unity of the Jewish People": Sharansky Leads the March of the Living, Poland 2010
Natan Sharansky with this year

April 11, 2010 / 27 Nissan 5770 

April 12th, Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom Hashoah), Jewish Agency Chairman of the Executive Natan Sharansky and Chairman of Yad Vashem will lead close to 10,000 young adults, including 6,000 Jews and 4,000 non-Jews, from more than 40 countries around the world in the March of the Living at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland.

The March of the Living, is an annual educational program which brings students from all over the world to Poland, where on Holocaust Memorial Day, participants march silently from Auschwitz to Birkenau, the largest Nazi German concentration camp complex built during World War II. After spending a week in Poland visiting other sites of Nazi persecution and former sites of Jewish life and culture, many of the participants of the March of the Living also travel on to Israel where they observe Israel's National Memorial Day for Fallen Heroes (Yom Hazikaron) and celebrate the country's joyous Independence day (Yom Haatzmaut).

The March of the Living is mainly aimed at Jewish high school students and addresses issues of religious tolerance and acceptance of others, as well as fighting anti-Semitism, strengthening Jewish identity and deepening connections to Israel. As Shmuel Rozenman, Chairman of the March of Living, explains, "During a year in which levels of anti-Semitism have risen dramatically around the globe, I see the March of the Living as the most important advocacy tool. The thousands of March of the Living participants, both Jews and non-Jews, are the answer to all those who chose to forget."

"This year," adds Rozenman, "We have chosen to dedicate the March of the Living to the memory of the children who perished in the Holocaust. To that end, we have invited two child-survivors of the Holocaust to lead the March - Rabbi Israel Lau and Professor Mark Speigelman - as guests of honor to lead the March."

Rabbi Israel Lau, who served as Israel's Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi from 1993 to 2003, was among those who escaped the Holocaust as a child; His father, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Lau, served as the last Chief Rabbi of the Polish town of Piotrków Trybunalski and died in the Treblinka death camp. Also born in Poland, Professor Mark Spigelman spent 25 years in Australia as a surgeon and currently divides his time as a visiting professor between labs at the UCL Medical School in the U.K. and the Hadassah Medical School in Israel as a human remains specialist/anthropologist, researching the history and development of microbial diseases utilizing microbiological techniques on ancient human remains.

Owing to a special initiative by Natan Sharansky, Israel's youth delegation to the March of the Living this year includes Shahar Pe'er, ranked as the world's #19 professional tennis champion by the World Tennis Association; Ohad Knoller, acclaimed film and television actor; and Bentzigizi Avraham, 1st Lieutenant in the Israel Defense Forces and the only Ethiopian officer serving in Nativ, a joint program of the Israeli Government and the Jewish Agency, strengthening Jewish Identity.

“The March of the Living strengthens Jewish identity, individually and collectively,” said Sharansky, adding that he sees it as a great honor to lead the March this year. “Growing up I knew little about the Holocaust because the Soviet authorities did everything to prevent us as Jews from creating an identity.”

Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky with Bentzigizi Avraham, 1st Lieutenant
in the Israel Defense Forces (left), and Israeli tennis champion Shahar Pe'er (right).

Shahar Pe'er will be joined by her mother, Aliza Pe'er, and her grandmother Yuliana Eckstein, who spent more than six months at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. "I am very excited," said Pe'er. "For me, to lead the March as an Israeli and as the granddaughter of a survivor, is an experience I will never forget. My grandmother debated for a long time whether she should participate [in the March], afraid that it would be too hard for her. But I am very glad that she decided [to come] in the end. I know it will be an extraordinary experience for myself, my mother and grandmother."

"The March of the Living strengthens Jewish identity on both personal and collective levels," explains Sharansky. "It is an incredible show of the force and unity of the Jewish People, based on our shared, collective experiences."

This year’s March of the Living also marks the 65th anniversary of the end of World War II.

Photo credit: Sasson Tiram

For further information contact:
Michael Jankelowitz,
Liaison to the Foreign Press, Jewish Agency for Israel
Mobile: +972-52-6130220;
Voice-mail: +972-2-620-2780
website: www.jewishagency.org



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11 Apr 2010 / 27 Nisan 5770 0