Response letter of Eli Rubenstein National Director MOTL Canada
The founder of the Jewrnalism Organization. For the last 10 years she has been closely working with the Jewish community of Poland and particularly of Krakow.
I was very disappointed to read the story pasted below.
The participants who made those offensive comments (that's a severe understatement) betrayed a complete misunderstanding of history, and an ignorance of the respect and humility one must have visiting memorial sites such as Auschwitz-Birkenau, of Jewish and humanistic/universal values, of basic norms of social conduct, and finally, of the goals of the March of the Living. See: http://marchoftheliving.org/goals-of-the-march-of-the-living
One of the principles we aim to teach to our students on the trip is this: The Holocaust symbolized how broken our world became. But as Rabbi Nachman of Breslev taught us some two centuries ago: "If you believe it can be broken, then know it can also be fixed". Each time a group of young people arrives in Auschwitz, one of our purposes is to have them declare allegiance to the values of human dignity and equality – to proclaim that our broken world can yet again be made whole.
Disparaging comments like the ones you heard are entirely inconsistent with this message and I am sorry you and your friends were subjected to them.
Over the years, the March of the Living (and other organizations) have made many positive changes in the area of Polish-Jewish relations and Polish-Jewish history. These include including learning about 1,000 years of Jewish history in Poland before WWII, understanding the genocide suffered by the Polish people at the hands of the Nazis, and their subsequent oppression at the hands of the Communists, establishing dialogue with Polish students, and meeting with Polish Righteous among the Nations. But it is clear that old stereotypes and ways of thinking and behaving still exist and need to be addressed each year and in every community before the students embark on such a trip.
Perhaps, to cite just one example, if the student who made the offensive comment had known that the Jewish fighters of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising - the 70th anniversary of which we are in the midst of honouring - held up Jewish and Polish flags in the face of the fatal Nazi Germans onslaught they might have reacted differently to the appearance of a Polish flag in Auschwitz. See: Minute 7:37 of
If you by chance, remember the group who these students were traveling with, I would be more than willing to speak with their group leaders to discuss this incident, so that, in future years, these occurrences can hopefully be avoided.
It is my belief - if not prayer - that this incident does not reflect the attitude of most of the students participating in the March of the Living, but even one student acting in this manner is not acceptable.
March of the Living Canada