Journey's end: Local teen group 'slows down' as trip to explore Jewish faith wraps up in Israel

CINCINNATI - Over the past two weeks local teenagers have seen dark skies in Poland and the warm and bright energy of Israel during March of the Living, a trip to explore history and their Jewish faith.

The 33 Cincinnati students participating in March of the Living spent the last days of their in Israel journey staying with host families in Netanya, a sister city to Cincinnati. The group departed Israel Wednesday.

Photographs by the students show images of celebration, reflection, and even a little recreation.

Through their eyes

Over the course of the trip, which began on April 2, the students shared their March of the Living experiences on a blog, each taking turns to write.

The group's adult leader, Matt Steinberg, blogged about the connections students made. Here's a verbatim excerpt:

"During this time of reflection near the end of the trip, we look back on our experience over the past two weeks. The stark contrast between the dark, cold, dreary Poland landscape with the bright, warm, and joyous week in Israel forces everyone to give deeper thought to the entire experience of March of the Living.

If you have been following the blog, you have gotten a little bit of insight into our experience through the pictures and posts from our participants.

We have seen and felt so much over the past two weeks, and it has been a privilege to share this experience with our fantastic group of Cincinnati teenagers and staff in the 2013 March of the Living Delegation from Cincinnati. As someone who has led the March of the Living previously, I can say that each delegation brings its own spirit, energy, and identity to the experience, and because of this, no two years of March of the Living are ever the same.

This year's group is particularly thoughtful and contemplative.

The experience has been a true emotional roller-coaster, and seeing the group navigate such a wide array of feelings, thoughts, and emotions with just the right mix of grace, compassion, empathy, and humor is heart warming.

This group truly supports each other, whether it be through providing a shoulder to lean on, engaging in meaningful discussions and reflections, sharing different perspectives, or even cracking a joke to lighten the mood when appropriate, this group knows the importance of community and the value of empathizing with others.

Our theme for Shabbat in Israel has been "slow down." As we near the end of the trip, everyone is focusing on absorbing as much as possible and getting the most out of their experience on the trip together.

It will be great to get home and see our families and friends in Cincinnati again after a long time away, but it will certainly be bitter-sweet to say goodbye to our MOTL family we have been living with for these intense weeks. We have built such close ties and bonds with each other, and that is a precious thing.

We are all anxious to share as much of our experience as we can with our families, friends, and community when we return, but our group will always have a special bond and connection because of what we have been through together."

What is March of the Living?

March of the Living is an annual silent walk in Poland that honors Yom HaShoah, Holocaust  Remembrance Day. More than 10,000 teens from around the march from Auschwitz to Birkenau, two of the most notorious concentration camps.

After the march delegates depart for Israel to observe Yom Hazikaron, Israel's Remembrance Day, and Yom Haatzmaut, Israeli Independence Day.

For more, information visit:

• The March of the Living Cincinnati blog:
• The March of the Living Cincinnati Facebook page :

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