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 — 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.

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Esther Kustanowitz

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  • Your on the right track, TM, but we have to fund *fun* Jewish education, ’cause I get the impression that yeshiva high schools might not be fun. Maybe we should fund Jewish educational cheerleading (“Gimme an aleph! Gimme a beis! Gimme a gimmel!”). Sorry. I just wanted to write “Gimme a gimmel”…

  • Fund all Jewish education: Orthodox, Conservative and even Reform. Make it easier for parents. Why on earth would Jewish groups fund trips to Poland for non-Jews WHEN THERE ISN’T ENOUGH MONEY AVAILABLE FOR JEWISH EDUCATION?! I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love non-Jews, but what is the logic here?

  • I remember the first March of the Living. Only the ‘choice’ teens were allowed on it and tested for maturity for reasons of being able to confront the horror at such a young age without pyschological ramifications. Nonetheless, us fellow high school kids drooled when they came back and told stories about getting plastered in Jerusalem.

    So not standing out academically in high school meant that I wouldn’t be allowed on the ‘march’ but in university when the opportunity arrived for a parallel and unassociated trip, I jumped on it and paid for my future wife’s ticket as well. While only 5-6 of us were religious, and me not being too ‘strong’ at the time either, I still was disappointed with the secular way everything was handled. Some other religious students stayed home out of that apprehension and hope of a future religious-oriented trip (you know won’t happen) and I think they made a big mistake. That trip, just being in those places, touching the rotting wood, seeing the mass toilets, being in the showers is something we will never forget.

    If you have the opportunity to do a Poland trip, do not let it pass.

  • It’s all gone Pete Tong is the best movie I have seen all year. This is the type of movie that I needed to come out, and it did. I am so excited. I highly recommend anyone and everyone checking this out.

  • Maybe there just isn’t enough interest on the part of jewish students to participate. Does anyone know if Jewish students are prevented from going because there aren’t enough places?.

  • Wine Guy, that’s an excellent question. I have no idea. I assume that it’s not “let’s send non-Jews and leave the Jews at home because they know enough already” and more along the lines of birthright grabbing up the heritage trip market among 18-26s, leaving an audience of mostly adults or non-Jewish students. Of course, this is all conjecture based on nothing. Maybe I’ve been drinking too much Rashi Moscato D’Asti (oh, the horror!)…

  • I think its great. But what I can’t wait for is for these non-jews in the entertainment industry to finally give kaballah a rest. YEESH!