By Seth Friedman
Seth Friedman is a high school junior who belongs to Isaac M. Wise Temple. A high school Israel travel grant from Cincy Journeys allowed him to take a NFTY trip to Prague, Krakow, Warsaw and Israel.
I once heard it said that life is a series of moments. We know the moments when we make them—the snapshots of life that we know will stick with us for years to come. This past summer, Cincy Journeys gave me the best gift of all—a trip through Europe and Israel packed with life-changing moments that will be with me forever.
The most powerful moment in Europe for me was visiting Auschwitz and Birkenau. I have been learning about the atrocities of the Holocaust for my whole life, but being at the place where 1.1 million people were murdered for being Jewish made me feel a strong sense of pride that we are still around, and the Nazi party has been gone for nearly 70 years. I felt an overwhelming sense of emotion when I was able to walk out of the gate of Birkenau. This is a privilege that many people did not receive.
When we arrived in Israel, we went to the Kotel and I felt a religious spark that I have never felt before. I brushed my hands across the stones that held up the temples. Simply put, it was a very powerful experience.
And then there was the moment of hiking Masada at sunrise. It felt like a testament to the strength of the Jewish people that these people died for their Judaism, and yet we are still a very strong community nearly two thousand years later. It was a feeling made stronger by our visit to the concentration camps, which proved to me that the Jewish people are prepared to continue to thrive until the end of time, and we won’t let anything get in our way.
Finally, there was the string of moments that consisted of joining together to sing Hatikva. We sang it in Birkenau. We sang it at at Gadna, a program that featured four days of basic training in the IDF. We sang it in Independence Hall in Tel Aviv. It fostered a strong sense of pride in my Jewish identity, and a drive to continue to follow in the footsteps of the generations who’ve come before me.