Young professionals join March of the Living
TORONTO — Three young Temple Sinai members were sponsored to participate in a March of the Living trip in hopes they would return to share their experiences with friends and family and keep the memory of the Holocaust alive.
The Temple Sinai Annual March of the Living Fund, which was established this year by congregants Lawrence and Beverley Fein in memory of Seymore Obront, will send three young Temple Sinai members on the March of the Living tour each year.
This initiative is meant to honour Obront, a close friend of the Feins who died in 2009, as well as promote Holocaust education.
The March of the Living is a two-week trip that begins in Poland, touring preserved concentration camps and other World War II sites, and concludes in Israel where thousands of March participants mark Yom Hazikaron and celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut.
Andrew Chris, Leah Krangle and Joshua Rosenblum were chosen to represent the first young adult delegation on the trip that ran from April 15 to 31. They joined a group of 45 other young delegates from Toronto and New York between the ages of 22 and 34.
Chris, a 32-year-old family lawyer, said nothing could have prepared him for what he saw and heard.
“For me, seeing a preserved concentration camp first-hand isn’t something you could really understand until you’re actually there,” Chris said, adding that delving deeper into the history of the Holocaust influenced his views on Israel.
“I’ve been to Israel previously on two occasions, but going to Israel in this way, following a week of education about the Holocaust, it was a different way to experience Israel and I gained a different appreciation. I have a better understanding of why a Jewish state is so critical to the survival of the Jewish people. If Israel had existed in the late 1930s, a major tragedy may have been averted.”
Leah Krangle, 24, a marketing manager for a mystery shopping company, said one of the most meaningful aspects of the tour was having the privilege of taking the tour with Pinchas Gutter, a Holocaust survivor.
“Walking through Auschwitz-Birkenau and Treblinka and hearing real people’s accounts of what happened… that was really impactful for me,” Krangle said.
Polish-born Gutter and his family spent three years in the Warsaw Ghetto before he and his family were deported to Majdanek, where his entire family was murdered.
Gutter was transferred to labour camps, including Buchenwald, and barely survived a death march to Theresienstadt before he was liberated in 1945. Following the war, he moved to South Africa and then immigrated to Canada in 1985.
Chris said he was also thankful for being able to hear survivor testimony first-hand.
“We’re the last generation that can actually experience this trip with a survivor,” Chris said.
In addition to hearing Gutter’s testimony and learning about the horrors that other prisoners faced, Krangle recalled feeling very uneasy walking through the camps.
“When we were walking into the concentration camps, especially Auschwitz, my first thought was, ‘Oh my gosh, I want to get out of here…’ Just having that feeling while nothing terrible is happening to you, I can’t imagine what people felt like when they were brought there. That struck a chord with me,” she said.
Rosenblum, 28, said the experience gave him a new perspective on the dilemmas facing Jews who were desperate to survive.
“I never understood why our people didn’t rebel violently on the whole when it became apparent the Nazis were rounding us up for execution,” Rosenblum said.
But when he heard survivor stories, it made him reflect on how he would have behaved in the same situation.
“Whereas I used to think my decision would be to fight… I now believe that I would have stayed with my family and resisted by trying to help us survive day to day.”
Now that the three-member delegation is home, they are each committed to sharing their experiences with friends and family.
“One of the things they talked about a lot was that we should never forget and that we should bring what we learned back to our families, friends and congregation, so they can experience it through us,” Krangle said.
“I think it’s just important to come home and tell people what you saw, show them pictures and encourage others to take the trip,” Chris added.
On May 26, Chris, Krangle and Rosenblum will be participating in a panel discussion at Temple Sinai about their experience.