Since its founding in 1988, the March of the Living has been a “rite of passage” for Jewish teenagers; the trip–arguably, the birthright israel of its day–was viewed as a heritage trip for Jewish teens to get a live and in-person view of the Eastern Europe they’d read about in books as backdrop to the Holocaust, and combine that with a trip to Israel that affirmed the indomitability of the Jewish people.
Now, says Forward reporter Jennifer Siegel, March of the Living’s recruited non-Jews and adults for the trip.
In one stark example, The City College of New York sent 10 students to Poland this week â€” only one of whom is Jewish.
Some Jewish communal leaders are thrilled at the wider participation.
“It’s just phenomenal,” said Joel Levy, the New York regional director for the Anti-Defamation League, which provided a $50,000 grant to fund the students’ trips. “This outreach is the kind of outreach that I think really promotes better understanding in our world and promotes a serious bridge between our community, the Jewish community, and the communities these students represent.” The ADL is also sponsoring non-Jewish students from colleges in California, and several graduates of its diversity training program. It has sent a documentary film crew to accompany the CCNY students.
In the Judaic Studies program at CCNY, 95% of the 340 students are not Jewish.
“That immigrant experience, and coming about and assimilating, it’s very much an experience I can identify with,” said Shivani Subryan, who came to New York from Guyana at age 6.