Alumni Reflections: Emily Stern, USA, 2016

What is the name of the March of the Living Delegation / Group that you traveled with? International March of the Living

Year(s) attended: 2016

What was the most memorable moment of your experience? There were so many. To name but a few:

  • Walking through the gates of Auschwitz, and seeing first hand what I’d only read about or seen in pictures. That was the start of understanding the extent of the horror.
  • Marching from Auschwitz to Birkenau with thousands and thousands of Jews from around the world, especially the teenagers, our future.
  • Landing in Israel for the first time in my life. I cannot begin to explain the burst of emotion I experienced.

What impact did Poland have on you? Poland broke my heart. Part of me wanted to hate it for what happened during the Shoah. I had felt, before MOTL, that the Poles let it happen, that they were enablers. I learned, though, that it wasn’t so simple. The Poles, too, feared for their lives. I saw a country that may have been beautiful once now gutted and scarred with horrible death camps. But part of me had hope. We met some wonderful young people who were discovering their Judaism, and through them, there is a future. We met a wonderful woman who saved many many Jews – and who said that this is what a person should do. We saw small Jewish communities – existing despite the horrors.

What impact did Israel have on you? Indescribable. The joy I felt when I got off the plane in Tel Aviv. The humbling pain of Yom Ha Zikaron. The unbridled celebration of Yom Ha’atzmaut. And most of all, being a part of the Holy Land. It was a magical feeling.

How were you impacted by the overall experience? What I saw, learned, and experienced in Poland and Israel has become a part of the fabric of my life. The two weeks I spent on this incredible journey now serve as a lens through which I view my world. It was life-changing. My friends and family have seen a difference in the six months since I’ve been home. I want to go back to Israel, and I want to fight against prejudice, hate, and injustice every day at home, too.

What else would you like to share about your experience? Most incredible, meaningful two weeks I have ever spent with the most incredible people from all over the world. I am blessed to have had this experience and to have shared it with these wonderful people. Special mention for the best leaders, Tali and Jacob. What they taught me will stay with me forever.