In an era where there are those concerned about the ongoing impact of assimilation perhaps March of the Living offers a valuable insight into positive ways forward. Not only in terms of preserving Yiddishkeit but also in teaching individuals the importance of standing up to anti-Semitism.
More than 220,000 participants have experienced March of the Living International (MOLI) trips to Eastern Europe and Israel and now MOLI has published a study examining the effects that the program has had on its participants.
The internationally known Holocaust Educational program which takes on average 10,000-20,000 students annually to Poland and Israel with the goal of educating and inspiring future generations to learn from the destruction of the European Continent during the Second World War, accepts applicants from all walks of life and religions, hoping to ensure that not only is the Holocaust not forgotten, but also that it is never repeated.
The report studies the impacts that the program has on its Jewish Participants, and highlights the educational and religious changes that the program has inspired since its creation in 1988. Of the population surveyed, most initially signed on to the program in order to better understand their Jewish culture. Many of the participants in the study said that the program has directly impacted them, inspiring many to visit, study, or move to Israel. 50 percent of the respondents said that the program caused them to consider moving to Israel later in life.
The study was conducted by Professor William Helmreich of CUNY Graduate Center and the Colin Powell School at City College in New York, a highly respected sociologist and expert on ethnic identity. “What’s most remarkable about the March is how deeply it impacts participants over a period of many years. These include life choices like selecting a mate, moving to Israel, and career choices. In addition, it greatly impacts not only on Jewish identity but also on compassion toward other people as well.”
Indeed, 54 percent of respondents said that the March had made them more tolerant towards other groups. An effect which increases over the years, as 66 percent of those who attended the March ten years ago, reported it had made them more tolerant.
The study also found that 86 percent of the participants asserted the importance in their spouse being Jewish, and 91 percent in raising their children with some sort of Jewish education. 65 percent felt the importance of raising their children in a Jewish neighborhood.
90 percent of those surveyed also felt the March instilled in them the importance of reacting to confrontations with anti-Semitism, and 95 percent stated the March had strengthened their sense of Jewish Identity.
“We are very pleased with the results of this study” said Dr. Shmuel Rosenman, chairman of The International March of the Living. “To think that the March is such a successful program in terms of ensuring and enhancing Jewish identity and in making people realize the importance of engaging as a Jew within their communities and caring for those outside of them, truly illustrates the goals that we had when initially forming the first March so many years ago. The International March of the Living looks forward to the next generation of participants and instilling in them these same values.”
Read more here.