By Hana Al-Henaid
Paulina Shahery â09 participated in March of the Living, the largest Jewish educational program for teens in the world, from April 19 to May 3.
The program takes Jewish teens from all over the world to Poland for the week surrounding Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Memorial Day and then to Israel for Israel Independence Day, March of the Living recruiter Dalia Moghavem (Nuriel â07, Eli â10) said.
Shaheryâs trip consisted of a three-kilometer “March of Death” from Auschwitz to Birkenau in remembrance of those who died while being forced to march from the concentration camp to the death camp.
At Birkenau, the march culminated in a memorial service at one of the death campâs gas chambers.
“The concentration camps we visited were hard, but it was inspiring to walk alongside five Holocaust survivors that have the energy, the passion and the guts to come back to hell,” Shahery said.
From the camps at Poland, Shahery, along with 8,000 other participants, flew to Israel to celebrate Israeli Independence Day on April 29.
“The March of the Living in Jerusalem was the best day in my life,” Shahery said. “It was Independence Day, Israelâs 61st Birthday and my 18th Birthday. The whole entire day was dancing, laughing and partying and dancing.”
The day before Independence Day, Shahery observed a moment of silence with the entire state of Israel in honor of Soldier Remembrance Day.
“Every action pauses for a whole minute while sirens ring all throughout the country,” Shahery said.
Shahery believes everyone should experience March of the Living “regardless of religion, ethnicity or walk of life.”
Moghavem has been involved with recruiting for March of the Living since October 2008.
Harvard-Westlake was the first secular school in Los Angeles to encourage their Jewish students to take this heritage trip, Moghavem said.
Due to the seriousness of this program, maturity of the student tends to highly weigh in on the decision to go and the second semester of senior year, once the college application process is done, is the best time to take such a trip, Moghavem said.
Next yearâs March of the Living will be held from April 8-22 corresponding with the occurence of Israeli independence celebration on the Jewish calendar.
“We are currently planning an informational evening in June for potential participants in the 2010 trip and I would love to hear from any student that is interested in learning more about this trip,” Moghavem said.
Interested students can contact Moghavem at DaliaSM@aol.com for information about March of the Living.