Reflections on BJE March of the Living

By Ali Kriegsman

I have studied the Jewish people and the foundational texts and key figures of the religion for the past 17 years of my life. In my Jewish philosophy course, we studied the concept of "covenant" and how post-Holocaust, the nature of our relationship with G-d completely changed. We studied Yitz Greenberg, a prominent contemporary Jewish thinker who asserts that after the Holocaust, we are no longer bound by the laws of the Torah because G-d backed down from his responsibilities and neglected to protect His "chosen ones." We studied the works of Eugene Borowitz, another renowned modern Jewish thinker, who outlines how extensively European Jews were lured in by assimilation and how this enticing assimilation contributed to their ultimate plight. In history classes, we studied the Holocaust in tandem with other genocides and analyzed how these blatant atrocities reshape the world order and revise how individuals judge human nature. In my psychology class, we spent weeks reviewing the different experiments following the Holocaust that strove to determine how such an evil could occur, and how so many people could turn the other cheek. I knew the facts – I knew the "hows" and "whys" through the lens of Jewish thought, world history, and psychology.

Yet the BJE March of the Living brought color to the previously gray image I had drawn up in my mind. Marching from Auschwitz to Birkenau with five survivors and then flying to Israel for Yom HaZikaron and Yom Ha'atzmaut was an experience I will never forget. It has secured a place in my narrative as one of the most informative and impactful experiences – so impactful it helped me decide on what I want to do for the rest of my life.

I want to study Criminology at the University of Pennsylvania, where I will continue developing my passion for social justice. The BJE March of the Living made me feel things stronger than I had ever felt them before: joy, pain, anger and determination to right the wrongs of society. Standing at a mass grave where 800 children were bludgeoned and killed, I knew I had to fight for tolerance and universal freedom for the rest of my life.

Experiencing Israel after Yom HaShoah in Poland was a beautiful way to embrace the triumph of the Jewish people. I had been to Israel once before, but did not fall in love with the country. Yet after the MOTL and watching Israelis feel simultaneously mournful on Yom HaZikaron and grateful on Yom Ha'atzmaut made me realize how unique and necessary Israel is. Israel would have bombed the train tracks to Auschwitz.

BJE March of the Living has defined my future and who I am as both a Jew and human being.

Ali is living and working in NYC having graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and majoring in Modern Middle Eastern Studies and creative writing