March of the Living International (MOLI) has published a study examining the effects that the program has had on its participants. The educational program 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. MOLI 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, leading many to visit, study in or move to Israel. Fifty percent of the respondents said that the program caused them to consider moving to Israel later in life.
The study was conducted by Prof. William Helmreich of CUNY Graduate Centre and the Colin Powell School at City College, a 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,” he states. “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% of respondents said that the March had made them more tolerant towards other groups. And the effect increases over the years, as 66% of those who attended the March 10 years ago, reported it had made them more tolerant.
The study also found that 86% of the participants asserted the importance in their spouse being Jewish, and 91% in raising their children with some sort of Jewish education; 65% felt the importance of raising their children in a Jewish neighborhood.
Of those surveyed, 90% felt the March instilled in them the importance of reacting to confrontations with antisemitism, and 95% stated the March had strengthened their sense of Jewish identity.
“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,” said Dr. Shmuel Rosenman, MOLI chair.
March of the Living brings individuals to Poland and Israel to study the history of the Holocaust and to examine the roots of prejudice, intolerance and hate. Since the first March in 1988, more than 220,000 participants from 52 countries have marched down the same three-kilometre path leading from Auschwitz to Birkenau on Yom Hashoah as a silent tribute to all victims of the Holocaust. March of the Living is a partnership between March of the Living International, local MOTL foundations, the Claims Conference, individual donors, private philanthropists and Jewish communities around the world. Visit motl.org.