The JCRC’s Goodwin Holocaust Museum and Education Center (GHMEC) will hold a special performance of “Dear Esther” for its annual community fundraiser at the Jewish Community Campus, Springdale & Kresson Rds. in Cherry Hill, on Tuesday, Apr. 19 at 7 p.m. “Dear Esther” retells the story of local Holocaust survivor Esther Raab, who escaped from the Nazi death camp Sobibor in Eastern Poland in an unprecedented uprising that freed over 300 men and women.
The play is based on the book written by Richard Rashke titled, “Escape From Sobibor,” and it was through the researching of that book that Rashke met with and began speaking to Esther Raab. Shortly after the book was released, “Escape From Sobibor” was turned into a movie, and the play “Dear Esther” was written.
“Dear Esther” was first performed in 1998 at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. In the 18 years since that time, it has been performed in several states around the nation, including New Jersey, Florida and Illinois. “Dear Esther” has been shared with over 50,000 middle and high school students just through the GHMEC alone. This will be the first time that “Dear Esther” will be open to and shared with the entire South Jersey community since its premier performances at the Westmont Theater in 1999. The performance will mark the one-year anniversary of Esther Raab’s passing. This powerful and inspirational story of hope, courage, and survival stresses the importance of tolerance and the acceptance of differences.
Raab was present during many of the performances of the play. Following its conclusion, she would engage with the students in the audience by answering questions that they had and taking pictures with them. Once the play was finished and Raab was introduced to begin speaking, students often rose from their seats while she made her way to the front of the audience. Hugs and words of thanks for Raab were common following the performances she attended. She was proud and touched to see students empowered and inspired by her story.
The author of the book “Dear Esther,” Richard Rashke, will attend. He has published several nonfiction books, including “The Killing of Karen Silkwood,” “Useful Enemies,” and “Escape from Sobibor.” His books have been translated into 11 languages and have been adapted to both stage and screen. Rashke is also a playwright and screenwriter whose work has appeared on network television and theaters across the country. Following the performance, Rashke will be speaking to the audience about his writing of “Dear Esther” and answering questions from the audience.
Since Raab’s passing, her sons Abe and Marvin Raab, have followed in her footsteps, answering audience questions following the conclusion of the play.
The Jewish Community Foundation is supporting this important performance and inviting community members who have committed to the LIFE & LEGACY program, which allows donors of the local community to help fund and support area Jewish schools, synagogues, organizations, Federation and its agencies. All funds raised by the evening performance of “Dear Esther” will be used to support Holocaust education throughout New Jersey.
To register, go to the Goodwin Holocaust Museum and Education Center website at www.ghmec.org, or call (856) 751-9500, ext. 1191.