Ms. Bizar Explores the Holocaust with March of the Living

Gigi Bizar and friend take picture with her delegation in Israel.

Gigi Bizar
By Sophia H-K
May 20, 2019

30 marches, 260,000 participants and 52 different countries make up the March for the Living. For the past 31 years, 260,000 participants have marched through 52 countries in remembrance of the Jewish Holocaust in what is known as the March of the Living.  This year, one of Westridge’s own, Ms. Bizar, will join the march for the second time.


Since 1988, The March of the Living has come together in remembrance of the Holocaust. Every year a delegation of people from the Builders of Jewish Education (BJE) is sent to Poland and Israel where they visit Jewish landmarks, concentration camps, and deportation centers. At the apex of the week, they march from Auschwitz to Birkenau, following a three kilometer track as a tribute to the victims of the Holocaust. From there they spend a week in Israel visiting holy sites and landmarks.


“We march in solidarity with about ten to fifteen thousand people from delegations around the world out the iconic gates of Auschwitz to Birkenau to honor memory, to raise awareness about intolerance, to stop the cycle of hatred and genocide,” Bizar said.  


This year for the first time, Bizar will be going as an educator for two and a half weeks with her delegation from Los Angeles. Westridge students who took Bizar’s seventh grade history class remember the Holocaust unit, where the class explored the many dimensions and atrocities of the genocide. When asked about the impact the March has had on her teaching, she noted the perspective it brings to her teaching about the Holocaust.


“I think it makes me be able to … tell an anecdote of what it was like to see the claw marks in the gas chamber. I can say what that feels like. I can talk about knowing and connecting with survivors. I can talk about what it’s like to see a country like Poland lose 90% of its Jewish population,” Bizar explained.  

Erica St. John
Dome of the Rock pictured behind crowd.

One of the key aspects, she explained, to marching and observing the barbarity of the Holocaust, is not only remembering the event, but also understanding what the genocide means today. She affirms how important it is to understand how prejudice asserts itself in the world as a pyramid that begins with microaggressions and moves to physical violence, ultimately ending in the mass eradication of a race. Bizar continued, saying that for this reason, the march is more valuable an experience than any other.


“I can’t think of any more important way to spend my time, I’m afraid of the rise of Islamophobia, of anti-Semitism, of racism, of police brutality. I’m afraid of siloed political thinking … and of what happens when people are unwilling, or unable, or too naive, or they don’t have the resources to learn about the pyramid of hate,” Bizar said.


Many at Westridge share these same fears and discuss them in town meeting and in class rooms. But if you’re looking for a way to involve yourself in the kind of work the March for the Living is doing, Bizar has some tips. While not everyone can attend a trip like the one to Poland, Bizar points out that everyone at Westridge is capable of finding their own activism.


“It’s important for people to find out what they particularly care about and fight for that. Not everyone has to care about the environment or racism equally, but if people can find their spark, their way to make the world a better place …. Each person at Westridge or in the greater community, what do they care about? What small acts can they do? Because those small acts have a ripple effect, just like the negative acts do.”  

Gigi Bizar