March of the Living: Education is the way to prevent

"Unless we remind the world of the history mankind faced by not dealing with such evil, we will be doomed to repeat that tragic past. Condemning it is not enough.”

Paul Miller (photo credit: Courtesy)
Paul Miller
(photo credit: Courtesy)
“Communities and institutions around the globe are under attack, and saying ‘never again’, as the world said when the nightmares of the Shoah were fully exposed, is simply not enough. Praying for it not to happen again is not enough.  Talking about it is not enough and passing resolutions in not enough. We also realize that unless we remind the world of the history mankind faced by not dealing with such evil, we would be doomed to repeat that tragic past, condemning it is not enough.” (Paul Miller regarding the decision  to enter into a partnership with the International March of the Living).
Paul Miller, Jon Farmer, David Machlis (Left to right)Paul Miller, Jon Farmer, David Machlis (Left to right)

Paul Miller, an alumnus of Rutgers University with a B.A. from the College of Arts and Sciences and L.L. B. from its school of law,  was born to immigrant parents with limited education and few resources. Miller rose to the top of his profession, becoming executive vice president and general counsel for Pfizer, Inc.  He has been married for 59 years with 3 children and 7 grandchildren. Already in the 1990s, he was active in philanthropic causes including projects related to the future of the Jewish People and defending the Jewish State. He was on the board of the pro-Israel AIPAC lobby.  In the summer of 2013, his life was put on hold, as he was confined to a wheelchair for weeks due to an accident. It was then, that he had time to read and reflect. Going into 2014, there was a rise in hate crimes and antisemitic attacks throughout the world, but especially in Europe. 

 As an attorney, he had many opportunities to meet John Farmer, the former attorney general for New Jersey and a lead consul on  the 9\11 commission and who currently is the director of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University. They both felt that there should be a new approach to antisemitism and hate crimes. “I felt like you really had to work directly with communities. So my family funded groups that went to Europe to work directly with communities on the ground, police men and religious leaders to counter this common threat. “ 

After the seeing the magnitude of success of the programs assisting communities around the world, they founded the Miller Center.

The missions of the Miller Center is to assist vulnerable communities, particularly religious communities, to enhance their safety and their standing in society by improving their relationships with law enforcement, with government agencies, and with other vulnerable communities. Throughout the years they assisted populations in areas as diverse as Whitefish, Montana and Malmo, Sweden, Chicago Illinois and Brussels, Belgium. They have assisted faiths as diverse as Judaism, Islam, Sikhism, and Christianity

An example of outstanding friendship and cooperation is the collaboration between Professor David Machlis, an economist at Adelphi University in New York who is the co -founder and vice chairman of the March of the Living, and the Miller Center for Community Protection and Resilience of Rutgers University. Together they created The Dean’s Program, which offers Deans of Schools of Education and Law Schools in the United States the opportunity to participate in the March of the Living. 

The March of the Living is the largest annual international, experiential Holocaust education program in the world. It has taken place in Poland without interruption since its inception in 1988. Each year thousands of participants from 150 communities around the globe participate in The March, including survivors, students, adults, liberators and educators.

Farmer heard of the various programs and speakers that Machlis was involved with regarding Holocaust education and introduced him to Paul Miller.

Professor Machlis is a unique person and a man of endless creativity.  He is the kind of person who actualizes his dreams. As far back as 1993, Machlis already saw the need for the March of the Living and Holocaust education to go beyond the Jewish particular story and convey a broader message to all people.

Therefore, he created the "March of Remembrance and Hope”, a program tailored to university and college students of all religions and backgrounds. The program takes place in mid-May, and includes a two-day trip to Germany, followed by a five-day visit to Poland. He also helped in the creation of the "Liberators program" which brings former allied soldiers who participated in the liberation of death camps throughout Europe to the March of the Living and many more

Miller and Machlis met and discussed their concerns regarding the lack of knowledge of the Holocaust in America and throughout the world. They quickly realized that while those who are most affected by the Holocaust and anti-Jewish hatred are deeply aware of its continued importance, this  it is not a widely shared view. Rather, all indications are that the prevailing attitude of most people is one of indifference or ignorance. Paul Miller and David were deeply disturbed by this low level of knowledge about the Holocaust, especially in US schools and universities.

Because they believe "remembering is the way to prevent” and since the Miller Foundation has been committed for years to fighting hate and anti-Semitism, they dreamed of a program in which educators and deans who are instructing the future generation of teachers in the United States would be part of an educational journey of learning  about the Holocaust and which would involve active participation in the March of the Living. It was that vision that led to identifying deans of schools of education and law that are positioned to have influence on not only their students, but also their fellow educators.

This unique collaboration has already come to fruition. In April of 2019, a delegation of 12 senior deans of education and law from colleges and universities across the United States took Part in the inaugural March of the Living Deans Mission.  This was made possible through collaboration with the Miller Center for Community Protection and Resilience of Rutgers University. 

This program was established with the belief that expanding Holocaust education is vital as the Holocaust is a universal issue, not just a Jewish one. They believe we must learn from the past in order to create a more tolerant and just society for the benefit of all humankind. 

It was important for Miller to stress that the Dean’s Program takes not only Deans of Colleges of Education to Poland, but also of Law Schools.  This was because he saw from his knowledge of history, that the lawyers in the Third Reich were instrumental in justifying the Final Solution in Germany which was a country of law with a constitution.  This is why it is important to educate and get the perspective of the lawyers. They next plan to bring chiefs of police in to the March of the Living in order to deal with issue of the enforcers. 

When referring to the partnership between the Miller Institute and the March of Living  John J. Farmer said " I am so grateful for our partnership with the International March of the Living. The March each year takes an unflinching look at human horror and genocidal hate and, by embracing this past truth, inoculates our youth against its reemergence. The spirit of optimism borne of grief that envelopes its participants is ineffable.”

David Machlis is confident that this program will have an enormous impact on future generations of educators and students in America. “The deans who came with us on this trip are some of the most influential educators in America. The impact will be in their teaching future educators in America about the holocaust. I’m certain they are totally committed to not just fighting hatred, but having a much stronger feeling and understanding of that terrible epidemic, anti-Semitism.”

Paul Miller said that if in ten years he encountered a student who had studied under an alumnus of the dean’s program, what he would hope to hear from them is this: “If that student were to say to me thank you, I understand what history is all about, I understand what role everyone played and the need for everyone to play a role to stop it (hate), that would be the absolute crowning success.”