My journey to the march actually began more than 45 years ago when on the morning of my 12th birthday, my grandparents sat me down and explained to me, in detail, what they had gone through in WWII. I don't think I was old enough or mature enough to grasp what they were saying, but the message is resonating clearly with me today. My grandfather's family were partisans, fighting the Nazis as well as the Red Army from their atrocities against Jews. For his crimes, my grandfather spent seven years in Siberia. At the time of this indoctrination, I was directed to keep up the work of my ancestors, to ensure the survival of the Jewish people. It is what brought me, through an unforeseen consequence of my grandparents' birthday wish for me, to Washington DC today.
My journey to the march also began with my other grandparents, Holocaust survivors who witnessed the extermination of their entire families by the genocide perpetrated by Amalek (the biblical namesake of those who seek to annihilate us).
I sat on the Blue Line train from Ronald Reagan Airport to the Smithsonian station with a train jammed with eager and purposeful marchers. I couldn't help but think about the parallels to the trains Jews were transported on against their will over 70 years ago in Europe.
As the train stopped at our station, another train coming in from the opposite direction stopped on the other side of the tracks, and when all of us got out, we looked upon a sea of blue and white, old and young. One young man started singing "Am Yisrael Chai" (The Jewish people live), and soon the hundreds of us filling that underground station were singing together, our hearts beating together, for the return of our hostages and for peace in Israel.
I began to cry, sobbingly. I couldn't help it. The emotions were overwhelming. And as I turned to hide my tears, I realized that many of us were crying. It was a powerful group emotional moment. I thought it was a unique moment so I stood on the platform as everyone cleared out to see what the next two trains would bring, and alas, it happened again. I asked a train station attendant, and she said, "I don't know what y'all are singing, but each group that exits the trains sings the same thing."
It was then that I realized that our people have a collective generational memory. It is said that we all stood at Mount Sinai together when Moses received the Torah. I believe that today, we once again stood together. I felt the waves of generations of Jewish people who had lived before me, died so that I could stand here freely today and proclaim that I am a Jew and that I stand with Israel. Hearing the crowd sing together, "Hatikvah" (Our hope), our national anthem, was once again an unbelievably moving experience.
I hope we never need another march like today again. But if we do, I will envision you all marching alongside me to that march as well. I will keep marching until our hostages are released and we are allowed to live in our homeland in peace.
Dr. Tamar Andrews is a renowned early childhood educator, professor, and author with over 30 years of experience in the field. She is the Director of Early Childhood Programs at the School for Jewish Education and Leadership at American Jewish University and has held various positions at UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, California State University-Dominguez Hills, and Temple Isaiah Preschool. Dr. Andrews is passionate about fostering a love of learning and Jewish identity in young children and has dedicated her career to creating nurturing and stimulating learning environments. She is a frequent speaker at conferences and symposia and has authored numerous articles and books on early childhood education. Dr. Andrews is a strong advocate for the role of early childhood education in shaping the future of society and is committed to making a positive impact on the lives of children and families.
Michelle Starkman, M.A., MBA
Vice President, Communications