Tikkun Olam

Gabrielle - Coral Gables, Florida
Entered on November 13, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30

I believe in Tikkun Olam, healing the world. Within the worldwide Jewish Community everyone has a connection. You may not have ever met the Jew before, but it’s like once you are both identified as Jewish you share a bond, and feel a protectiveness over one another. Being Jewish our heritage bonds us together and we are all responsible for each other as well as those who cannot help themselves.

I went on a trip called the March of the Living; this trip had a lot of personal meaning to me being the granddaughter of an Auschwitz survivor, but more importantly being a Jew and a human being. I spent a week in Poland and a week in Israel. The week I spent in Poland was the most profound, shocking, yet enlightening experience of my life. Upon arrival I instantly felt unwelcome. All the Poles with their light hair and light skin, it was so obvious that I was not from around there, and I was treated like I was not wanted there.

I visited all of the concentration camps from the Holocaust that were located in Poland, each one more horrifying then the next. On my bus there was a survivor, and when we arrived at Birkenau he told me his story as we sat in the very barrack where he was held next to the very furnace in which he hid to survive.

The most astonishing site on this trip however, was not the tons of human ashes I saw, the thousands of shoes, the mass graves, the piles of hair, Birkenau, Auschwitz, nor Majdonek which is now a Polish national park where kids play and adults ride bikes and have picnics, disgusting, I know, but rather the site that affected me the most was that of Treblinka. For those of you who do not know Treblinka was not one of these concentration camps run by the Nazi’s, but rather an extermination camp. Treblinka is the very place where Janusz Korczak and his kids of his orphanage in the Warsaw Ghetto were sent to die. Janusz a martyr whowas given so many opportunities to escape, but he stayed with his kids, telling them that they were going on a picnic so they would not be afraid, and to hold the Israeli flag high and proudly while they walked to their deaths. They were sent walking up a steep hill, naked and sweating so that they could absorb the poison gas as quickly as possible to increase the efficiency of their murders. Literally the prisoners, victims, martyrs, and heroes would step off the train and just a few yards away was the gas chamber waiting for them.

At the time of my arrival at this place, nothing remained of that past. The Nazi’s had time to destroy the evidence, but what I found in its place was more striking then anything I could have imagined. A beautiful landscape with thousands of stones, well, they were more like graves, each representing a village of people that had been terminated and extinguished, including the village of my survivor. In the midst of all of these stones was a monument saying NEVER FORGET in hundreds of languages. I could not believe that such a peaceful place could emerge from what horrors it once was.

Upon my return to school I could not forget. Everything I was now encountering at school, in class, what my teachers were teaching me, and all of the high school drama seemed so trivial. I felt that everyone was oblivious to what has happened in the past and all of the horrors that exist in the world today. I had to bring my experience back and share it with others. I started a club to save Darfur, knowing that someone had to speak up and truly never forget.

I believe in healing the world, and I believe that it is our responsibility as humans to protect our fellow human beings. “You are not required to complete the work, yet you are not allowed to desist from it.” Pirkei Avot 2:21. I started this club at my school to teach those who were willing to listen, and to teach those who would come after me to continue to fight for what is right, and to continue on the awareness. “The world is sustained by three things: By justice, by truth, and by peace” -Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel. As a Jew I believe it is the responsibility of each and every single Jew and human being to Never Forget and to never let genocide happen again.