March of the Living chaperones eager to bear witness alongside students

By Benita Siemiatycki
March of the Living Co-ordinator

Chaperones Cantor Daniel Benlolo and Jennifer Kardash look forward to guiding Ottawa high school students on the 2016 March of the Living. Both were inspired by their own children’s participation in the March. (Michael Regenstreif)

Chaperones Cantor Daniel Benlolo and Jennifer Kardash look forward to guiding Ottawa high school students on the 2016 March of the Living. Both were inspired by their own children’s participation in the March. (Michael Regenstreif)

The 2016 March of the Living doesn’t depart until May, but the chaperones who will accompany the Ottawa high school students on the trip are very excited to be part of this incredible journey.

Jennifer Kardash and Cantor Daniel Benlolo will take charge of the Ottawa group, and all Jewish high school students in Grades 10 through 12 are eligible to participate. Registration is ongoing until the end of October.

Originally from Vancouver, Kardash has lived in Ottawa for 23 years. An active volunteer in the Jewish community, she launched the popular Choices women’s event, sits on the Jewish Federation of Ottawa Board of Directors and served on the Federation’s Women’s Cabinet. But, she said, her most notable decision was to send her two daughters on the March of the Living in 2014 and 2015. Seeing the impact the March had on them turned her into an advocate. She joined the Ottawa March of the Living Committee in 2014, and her dedication to Holocaust remembrance moved her to chair the 2015 Federation’s Yom HaShoah commemoration.

Kardash is acutely aware of the dwindling numbers of Holocaust survivors who can provide first-hand accounts of their experiences and that it will be up to the next generation of witnesses, including March of the Living participants, to carry on with Holocaust education and awareness in the future.

“It will be my honour to help the Marchers of 2016 gain the most out of this emotional experience. How much the next generation knows about the Holocaust depends on them,” she said.

Like Kardash, Cantor Daniel Benlolo of Congregation Beth Shalom is following a family tradition with the March. He sent three children on the March in 2010, 2012 and 2014 respectively. Inspired by their stories, he is eager to experience the March through the eyes of teenagers.

“Over the years, I have found that there is always a certain presence that human beings will respond to, and that there is always an appropriate tone to be taken with people. I think that this skill is one that will not be lost on the impressionable youths under my care. I am truly humbled by this honour and opportunity,” said Cantor Benlolo.

Both chaperones know how emotionally charged the March of the Living is. The students visit Poland for one week, where they experience Yom HaShoah and witness the sites where the Jews of Europe were decimated. They then go to Israel for Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’Atzmaut, a day of solemn memory and then a festive celebration focused on the anniversary of the founding of the modern Jewish state.

To register, visit www.marchoftheliving.org. For additional information, contact Benita Siemiatycki at 613-798-4644 or bsiemiatycki@jewishottawa.com.

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