University Presidents Embark on Historic Mission to Auschwitz for International March of the Living

First ever University Presidents and Chancellors Mission will see former US Secretary of Education Dr. John King and Yeshiva University President Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman head up a diverse delegation of higher education leadership including from Catholic, Evangelical  and  historically Black colleges and  universities

May 1st, 2024 – New York, NY – Amid a sharp rise in antisemitism on US campuses, especially after the October 7th attacks in Israel, the International March of the Living is launching the first ever University Presidents and Chancellors Mission from the United States and Canada to the annual March of the Living taking place on the Yom HaShoah Holocaust Remembrance Day on May 6th, 2024.

The March of Living program brings participants to Poland to show a rich history of Jewish culture alongside sites of Jewish persecution. Delegates hear firsthand the experiences of Holocaust survivors and are guided by scholars-in-residence with expertise in the Holocaust, genocide, and human rights. The trip culminates on Holocaust Remembrance Day (May 5-6), during which participants join Holocaust survivors on a solemn march from Auschwitz to Birkenau to commemorate the Nazi horrors. By participating in this mission, the hope is that university leaders will bring home their insights to fight antisemitism, hatred, and racism on campus.

“Europe’s most educated and advanced country in terms of higher education, in both the arts and sciences, was none other than Germany and yet this was the very same nation that singled out for eradication an entire people – the Jewish People – in the most horrifying manner,” said Dr. David Machlis, Vice Chairman of the International March of the Living. “As we travel through Poland, and see the results of Nazi Germany’s genocidal policies towards the Jews, we will see the direct link between antisemitism and the road to Auschwitz. 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 potential devastating outcomes of ignoring the issue.”

The cohort of university presidents and chancellors from America and Canada taking part in the 2024 International March of the Living will be headed up by former US Secretary of Education Dr. John King, now the Chancellor of SUNY, together with Yeshiva University President Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman. Dr. King leads a system of 64 colleges and universities in New York State, the largest comprehensive system of public higher education in the United States.

The university presidents come from a diverse group of colleges and universities, including public, private, Catholic, Evangelical, and historically Black colleges and universities. Among those participating are leaders of Southwestern Assemblies of God University, State University of New York, Towson University, U15 Group of Canadian Research Universities, University of Ottawa, University of Toronto, and Xavier University of Louisiana.

Many of the participants were signatories to Universities United Against Antisemitism – a coalition of higher education leaders founded by Rabbi Dr. Berman in the aftermath of the Hamas attacks on Israel on October 7th. In a year when 73% of Jewish college students are reporting antisemitism on their college campuses, this group was the first of its kind among higher education leaders to unequivocally condemn Hamas’ attacks on Israel, proudly standing with Israel and recognizing Hamas as a terrorist organization.

“A disturbing wave of antisemitism has flooded college campuses in the wake of the barbaric October 7th attacks and kidnappings by Hamas,” said Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman, President of Yeshiva University. “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. Serving as witnesses to the horrors of the Nazis will give context to the roots of antisemitism and help inform why we must continue to condemn antisemitism, from Eastern Europe to US college campuses. Never again is now.”

Professor Mark R. Ginsberg, President of Towson University said, “The lessons of the Holocaust, as painful as they are, provide a vivid backdrop for understanding the accelerating concern about the rise in antisemitism. This program, with presidents of leading universities participating in the March of Living, will provide an opportunity to learn the lessons of history while framing a historical context for mitigating the tragic consequences that result from antisemitism. I am pleased to participate as I know that this experience will be both informative and highly consequential”. 

Eva Kuper, child survivor of the Holocaust, saved by one of the Righteous Among the Nations, who will accompany the group said, “Education is the most powerful tool we have in fighting antisemitism, hatred, discrimination and war.  Our children are our future and we must equip them to remember the past, to learn from the past, to honour the past, to become witnesses who bring the truth of the Holocaust forward for generations to come. But they must also look to the future with hope. As Elie Wiesel said: ‘Just as man cannot live without dreams, he cannot live without hope. If dreams reflect the past, hope summons the future’.  There are indeed many stories of horror during the Holocaust, but there are also many stories which attest to man’s goodness. They too are a part of the history of the Holocaust.”  

The March of the Living stands as a pinnacle event on Holocaust Remembrance Day. Each year, thousands of Jewish and non-Jewish students from around the globe march alongside Holocaust survivors, world leaders, ministers, religious figures, and cultural icons. Since 1988, over 300,000 participants have marched from Auschwitz I to Auschwitz II-Birkenau, honoring the immense loss suffered by the Jewish people and all humanity. For the Jewish student participants of this educational program, the March of commemoration in Poland is part of a longer journey culminating in the Independence Day March of celebration in Jerusalem.

This year, the March will be led by 55 Holocaust survivors from countries around the world, including seven survivors who were personally impacted by the October 7th atrocities in Israel as part of a delegation of surviving victims from the deadly attacks.

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They call me "NewsHound IV," because I'm a clever Finnegan, sniffing out stories all over the Boulder area. I love Jewish holidays because the food is GREAT, especially the brisket. Well all the food. I was a rescue pup and glad to be on the scent!

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