Never Forget Esther: Put 50 Books into 50 Schools

Project Goal

The goal of this program is share Esther Terner Raab’s powerful story and hopeful message that compassion and acceptance conquers hate and bigotry by developing the new Tolerance and Holocaust Educational Program, “Never Forget Esther,” that aims to put Children’s Letters to a Holocaust Survivor: Dear Esther in schools across the county.

Who is Esther

From the Chrysler Showcase Presentation of ESCAPE FROM SOBIBOR, a three-hour television special that aired on CBS-TV on Sunday, April 12, 1987.

From the Chrysler Showcase Presentation of ESCAPE FROM SOBIBOR, a three-hour television special that aired on CBS-TV on Sunday, April 12, 1987.

On October 14, 1943, Esther and the other six-hundred inmates of Sobibor, a secret Nazi death camp in eastern Poland, revolted. She dodged bullets and ran past exploding mines until she reached the edge of the forest that surrounded Sobibor. For the next year, she was forced to remain in hiding because anti-Semitic Polish partisans roamed the forest and most of the local peasants weren’t sympathetic to the plight of the escapees. By the time the Red Army reached eastern Poland, only forty-eight Sobibor escapees including Esther had survived the war.

Sobibor 1

Sobibor Survivors

During her interment in Sobibor, Esther pledged that if she endured the ordeal she would be the voice of the victims who were martyred and couldn’t speak for themselves. She kept the promise and shared her brutal story with frank honesty with school children. It was never easy for her to talk about her war experiences. For Esther, speaking about the past meant she had to re-live and re-endure all those awful moments all over again, but she was propelled forward by the belief intolerance and hatred could be transformed into hope and love by sharing.

School children were so affected by Esther’s story that more than a thousand wrote to her, sharing their own hardships, griefs, concerns and compassion through letters, poems and drawings. Esther was overwhelmed by the response, and dedicated herself to responding to each and every difficult question posed.

In 1997, Richard Rashke wove the letters into a poignant play, Dear Esther, which explores issues of death, belief in God, revenge, hatred, justice, luck, guilt and memory. Dear Esther premiered in 1998 at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and since then, it has been produced in over 200 theatres and schools, and it has touched more than 100,000 children.  At the Godwin Holocaust Museum and Education Center (GHMEC) alone, it is estimated that 50,000 students have been reached. But this isn’t enough.

Never Forget Esther Program

Esther with a Student after a Dear Esther Production. Picture courtesy of Abe Raab.

Esther with a Student after a Dear Esther Production. Picture courtesy of Abe Raab.

The Historic Heroines “Never Forget Esther” Program will produce a new Classroom Edition of Children’s Letters to a Holocaust Survivor: Dear Esther that will include guided questions and suggested classroom activities and grant educators access to additional lesson plans created by public school educators to spark a conversation in Tolerance and Anti-bulling education programs and Holocaust education programs.  Lessons can also be used in History, Reading, and Drama classes, as well. In the pilot year, Historic Heroines will identify, select and work with fifty schools in the New Jersey and Philadelphia suburbs where Esther and her family lived after WWII and developed strong community connections. Each school selected will receive fifty free Classroom Edition copies of Children’s Letters to a Holocaust Survivor: Dear Esther plus additional free classroom resource materials including copies of the CBS made of television movie “Escape From Sobibor.” In year two, we will expand the perimeter of our program outside of the New Jersey area to other school districts where a mandate for Holocaust Education exits. Eventually, we hope that our book is adopted in all school districts across the United States.

What Educators are Saying

Educators are already responding positively to Children’s Letters to a Holocaust Survivor: Dear Esther as a teaching resource:

  • School children at a Dear Esther Presentation at the Goodwin Holocaust Museum and Education Center.

    School children at a Dear Esther Presentation at the Goodwin Holocaust Museum and Education Center.

    “As seen in the letters written to Esther, she clearly has a gift for inspiring others to identify social injustices and find ways to correct them.” Barry Schwartz, Glenfield Middle School

  • “A copy of Children’s Letters to a Holocaust Survivor: Dear Esther should be in every classroom.” Debbie Bruhn, 8th grade Special Education Teacher, Lumberton Middle School
  • “The responses of the children give us hope that they will stand up against injustice, prejudice and hatred throughout their lives.” Joe Burke, Paul VI High School Assistant Principal
  • “Rashke’s Dear Esther inspires students to develop the character strength of bravery and deepens their understanding that silence and indifference perpetuate intolerance, bigotry and hate…” Michelle Myers, Teacher at Sterling High School
  • “The depth of emotions revealed in the letters from students of all faiths and backgrounds is evidence that Esther’s story will be known for generations!” Terri Orleno, New Jersey Department of Children and Family Services
  • “I think that students respond so positively to Dear Esther because the play is so honest. It shows the doubts and fears that Esther faced and, more importantly, it portrays her strength and compassion—despite all the horrors and tragedies she encountered. The play teaches students to never give up hope.”  Helen Kirschbaum, Director of GHMEC

What is the cost?

BookCoverImageThe cost to put fifty books into one school is $800. This includes book printing, royalties, sales tax and shipping fees.

In order to put fifty books into fifty schools, Historic Heroines seeks to raise $40,000 a year.

Please help us reach our goal to launch “Never Forget Esther” to continue to share Esther’s Terner Raab’s inspirational story that stresses the timeless and ever important message of tolerance and acceptance of difference.

Donations of $50 or more will receive a free of Children’s Letter to a Holocaust Survivor: Dear Esther.

PLEASE SUPPORT THIS PROGRAM!

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Warrenton, VA 20188

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