Abe Raab is the elder son of Sobibor survivor Esther Terner Raab and the executive director of Dear Esther Productions. For the past sixteen years, he has been offering Dear Esther — a play about his mother — to school children in New Jersey and surrounding states.
When did you first hear about your mother’s Holocaust story?
From my earliest memories back at least to when I was four years old, I knew about my mother being a survivor. She had several local friends who also survived Sobibor and they shared with each other, and most of my Jewish friends were also children of survivors.
Why have you spent so much time and energy promoting the play?
I see my parent’s stories as my Legacy. So many of my friends aren’t able to share because their parents could not share with them. I’m lucky and honored that I can.
By your estimate, how many children have seen the play through Dear Esther Productions?
I have spoken to over 60,000 students over the last 15 years, and other performances which I didn’t attend might account for an additional 10,000.
Were you surprised at the impact the play has had on school children? What in the play makes them respond so deeply?
The first year we offered Dear Esther, we had 6 performances and we thought that would be it. But the response from the students was so positive in terms of their understanding and their teachers requested dates for the following year. For many students, this is the first live, professional performance they had seen, so that grabbed their attention. Some even thought, the actress portraying old Esther was the real Esther. When we decided to offer Dear Esther, it was our intent not to just portray a historical events, but to frame it as learning from history not learning about history. My mother’s presence at most of the early performances where she answered student questions was major force in the success of the play.
What did your mother think of the play?
My Mother always looked forward to speaking at the play. She felt that the play was key in keeping her promise to Tell The World, and she believed it made a positive impact on the students.
What is your favorite Dear Esther story?
On several occasions, students asked if they could touch my Mother’s scar, which she let them do, it made it feel so real for them.
How do you think your mother would react to the book?
She cherished her letters and was always proud of them. She probably smiling now as she looks at the new book.
Why is your mother a hero?
She spoke when others didn’t or could not. She relived the horrors over and over again, as a responsibility and commitment to share and make a better future.
What do YOU think of the book Children’s Letters to a Holocaust Survivor: Dear Esther?
I’m very happy that her story and the impact it has made is being renewed.