It is great to be home again in our own beds and showers, but it is also sad to wrap up a momentous trip: March of the Living 2013 Cincinnati Delegation. Everyone said that this was to be a "life-changing" experience and I wondered how exactly would life change? After all, we returned to the same homes, schools (ugggh), families, Chipotle and Wi Fi? What has changed? I suppose we have.
When we were nearly home and heard that our plane couldn't land in Chicago but had to be diverted to Detroit, we were all exhausted and upset. But it kept running through my head, "Remember where we have been!" Imagine our grandparents who traveled day after day in packed cattle cars only to arrive at work camps if they were lucky and gas chambers if not. How can we possibly complain about a few hours delay? Recall the Mt Herzl cemetery where kids just a bit older than our delegates fell serving the Jewish state. And we are complaining about a few hours delay? So for one, I think our PERSPECTIVE has changed.
Another thing that I noticed is an awareness of our own societal sanctioned bigotry and intolerance. During the amazing March at Auschwitz we handed out stickers for Project6million.org asking folks to make statements against hatred bigotry, racism, anti-semitism, and intolerance. Then we got on the bus and listened to raps dripping with lyrics expressing homophobia, sexism and intolerance. I am no censor, but for the first time I heard how the words that may entertain me might seem crushing to the person sitting next to me. My AWARNESS has grown changed.
Finally, this event has created an intimacy and a community such as I've rarely experienced. We left Cincinnati two weeks ago as a mash up of 34 individuals and came out as a family. There were no real cliques or outcasts. People treated each other with dignity and respect. I would tear up each time I witnessed someone reach out and put an arm around another who was struggling to hold it together at a camp or cemetery, or when the most silent/stoic soul would say something insightful at an evening debriefing session. Plus, our delegates were beyond compare! All around us, we witnessed chaperones treating their delegates like children, and they, in turn, acted exactly as they were being treated. Matt Steinberg, Rick Lefton and I had faith and respect in the Cincinnati delegates and they lived up to our expectations! We've changed in that we've become FAMILY. (#OliveGarden)
We departed with T'filat HaDerech, the prayer for a safe journey. Now we ask:
May the One Who blessed our ancestors Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Sarah Rebecca. Leah and Rachel,
bless and make blessings of us.
We have traveled to the lands of Poland and Israel, in the footsteps of those who came before us.
We give thanks that we have returned home in peace and well-being.
May the memories of our journey remain strong and inspire our deeds.
May the connections we have forged remain a source of inspiration.
May we work to build and maintain bridges of understanding between all peoples.
May we encourage others to travel in our footsteps.
May we be blessed in the future to return to a peaceful and renewed Israel soon and in our day!