The March of the Living from Auschwitz to Birkenau this year marked its 30th anniversary and the 70th anniversary of the State of Israel under the theme “From Holocaust to Redemption.” The march was led by President Reuven Rivlin and his Polish counterpart, Andrzej Duda, as well as all the leaders of Israel’s security establishment, including the IDF, the Israel Police and the Mossad.
It was an enormous feat, taking place under the shadow of a controversial Polish law that was later repealed. The 3.2-kilometer march on April 11 – in which 12,000 marchers, many of them youngsters from around the world, were joined by local residents and security forces – was a huge success. The two people largely responsible for that success were March of the Living cofounder Dr. Shmuel Rosenman, who declared, “We won’t let anyone wipe out or diminish the memory of the Holocaust,” and March of the Living president Phyllis Greenberg Heideman, who said, “It is an overwhelming, inspiring and emotional moment to watch all these young people, who are our legacies for the future, learn from our past.”
Rosenman has served as a lecturer in Bar-Ilan University’s Department of Social Sciences. The powerful chairman of the International March of the Living organizes the event every year from his office in Ramat Gan, bringing together Holocaust survivors, distinguished guests and international students. Together with former chief rabbi and Holocaust survivor Yisrael Meir Lau, who has accompanied him on every March of the Living since its inception, Rosenman’s special guest this past year was popular Israeli singer Shlomo Artzi, the son of Holocaust survivors, who had the large audience at the gathering in Birkenau in tears as he sang melodies of remembrance for his father, Yitzhak, who survived in the underground in Romania, and his mother, Margalit, who died earlier in the year at the age of 96.
Rosenman attributed the success of the event to his team leaders – Aharon Tamir, Baruch Adler, Moshe Pulnski, and Shlomo Grofman – who steer the international organization that brings together youth and adults from around the world to the march.
“It is also important to give credit to the regional directors from over 42 countries who work day and night to bring about the success of this unique educational project,” Rosenman said.
Heideman is a managing partner of Heideman, Nudelman & Kalik PC in Washington, DC. She previously served as chair of the march’s international advisory board following the completion of her five-year term as an appointee by president George W. Bush to the US Holocaust Memorial Council. Among other things, she is also co-chair of the Israel Forever Foundation, which is run by her Israel-based daughter, Elana Yael Heideman, and was the recipient of the AEPhi Jewish Communal Service Award in recognition of her volunteer activities, as well as the Joseph Papp Racial Harmony Award from the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, together with her husband, Richard, who was last year elected president of the American Zionist Movement.
In an exclusive opinion piece she wrote for The Jerusalem Post before this year’s March of the Living, Heideman said pointedly: “The role of the March of the Living in the future of the Jewish people rests in our commitment to carry the torch of memory as a means of igniting an attachment to the past as a connector to the future. We are in the unique position of educating a committed group of alumni who can lead Jewish communities around the world into the future. If knowledge is power, then memory is powerful. In the fast-paced and ever-changing times our younger generations face, we take seriously our responsibility to prepare them to feel better equipped to face the future.”
Both Heideman and Rosenman are making a real impact on future generations in their strong commitment to the March of the Living.