Melinda Mishkin Kieffer wants Jewish teens from Philly to join her on a two-week journey in April through Poland and Israel.
The 25-year-old March of the Living program includes a weeklong tour of Poland, during which participants visit cities that were once vibrant centers of Jewry and Holocaust sites such as the Auschwitz death camp. They then spend a week in Israel and tour Jerusalem, the Galilee and the Negev Desert, among other places.
Kieffer, who has led 10 March of the Living trips, was asked by the organization to build connections here. She and her husband, Samuel Kieffer, moved to the city from South Florida when he accepted a position to serve as interim rabbi for a year at Har Zion Temple in Penn Valley. The synagogue is now searching for a replacement for Rabbi Jay Stein, who left the position last year.
Kieffer, who plans to make aliyah with her husband sometime in the next year, said that Philadelphia, relative to other major Jewish population centers, has not sent many teens on the trip.
She said the program pushes participants to confront a painful history, then see the centrality of Israel for Jews.
“After spending the week in Poland and then coming to Israel with teenagers, you can’t help but think back about if Israel was alive and had an army of its own 70 years ago, what would have happened in World War II?” said Kieffer, whose three adult children all participated in the march and now live in Israel.
To help jumpstart the program in Philadelphia, an anonymous donor has offered a scholarship to any Jewish teen who applies. The deadline for applications was Jan. 31, but Kieffer said applications will still be accepted if there is space. The cost of the two week trip is about $5,000.
For more information about the march, or to schedule an interview with Kieffer, email her at: MOTLKieffer@aol.com .