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March of the Living invites US university presidents to Poland

The trip will take place amid a sharp rise in antisemitism on college campuses in North America.

More than 10,000 Jewish and non-Jewish youth from 40 countries and dozens of Holocaust survivors and dignitaries from around the world participated in the 31st annual International March of the Living, May 2019. Credit: March of the Living.
More than 10,000 Jewish and non-Jewish youth from 40 countries and dozens of Holocaust survivors and dignitaries from around the world participated in the 31st annual International March of the Living, May 2019. Credit: March of the Living.

Amid a sharp rise in antisemitism on college campuses in North America, the International March of the Living is launching its first-ever mission for university presidents, the group announced on Wednesday.

Next week’s mission to Poland will introduce delegates to the country’s rich Jewish history alongside sites of antisemitic persecution. Delegates will hear firsthand from Holocaust survivors as well as scholars with expertise in the Holocaust, genocide and human rights.

The trip culminates on Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day (May 5-6), when participants will join survivors on a solemn march from Auschwitz to Birkenau to commemorate the Nazi horrors.

“Europe’s most educated and advanced country in terms of higher education, in both the arts and sciences, was none other than Germany,” said March of the Living Vice Chairman David Machlis. “Yet this was the very same nation that singled out for eradication an entire people—the Jewish people—in the most horrifying manner.

“We hope that through this mission, which is planned to be expanded in future years, university presidents will become allies in the fight against antisemitism, because we know all too well the potentially devastating outcomes of ignoring the issue,” said Machlis.

This year’s delegation will be headed by former U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr., currently the chancellor of the State University of New York (SUNY), together with Yeshiva University President Rabbi Ari Berman.

The university presidents come from diverse colleges and universities in the U.S. and Canada, including public, private, Catholic, evangelical and historically Black institutions.

Among those participating are the Texas-based Southwestern Assemblies of God University, Towson University in Maryland, the U15 Group of Canadian Research Universities, the University of Ottawa, the University of Toronto and Xavier University of Louisiana.

“A disturbing wave of antisemitism has flooded college campuses in the wake of the barbaric October 7 attacks and kidnappings,” said Rabbi Berman.

“In this period of crisis, it is more important than ever that university presidents of moral conscience are joining together to honor the memory of all Holocaust victims, pledging to stand against antisemitism and all forms of discrimination and hate,” he added.

Eva Kuper, who was born in Poland in 1940 and survived the Holocaust as a child, will accompany the group. “Education is the most powerful tool we have in fighting antisemitism, hatred, discrimination and war,” she explained.

“Our children are our future and we must equip them to remember the past, learn from the past, honor the past; to become witnesses who bring the truth of the Holocaust forward for generations to come,” said Kuper.

Each year on Holocaust Remembrance Day, the International March of the Living brings thousands of Jewish and non-Jewish students from around the globe to the German death camps in Poland for a march alongside Holocaust survivors, world leaders, government ministers, religious figures and cultural icons.

Since 1988, more than 300,000 participants have marched from Auschwitz I to Auschwitz II-Birkenau, honoring the immense losses suffered by the Jewish people and humanity at the hands of Nazi Germany and its allies.

For the Jewish students who participate in the educational program, the March of the Living is part of a longer journey, culminating in the Independence Day celebrations in Jerusalem.

This year, the march will be led by 55 Holocaust survivors from countries around the world, including seven who were personally impacted by the Oct. 7 Hamas atrocities in Israel.

Anti-Israel and antisemitic protests have spread across campuses across the U.S. in the wake of the Hamas terrorist attacks, energized by the arrest of more than 100 anti-Israel students at Columbia University earlier this month.

Major universities have done little to quell the unrest and the protesters have faced little in the way of disciplinary action, while Jewish students remain threatened.

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