The Hobart and William Smith Colleges’ Department of Religious Studies hosted a performance of Survivors, a new play that recounts stories from the Holocaust. The show was part of the Colleges’ Human Rights and Genocide Symposium performed on the stage of the Smith Opera House in Geneva.
Survivors was crafted from the words and experiences of 10 Holocaust survivors who live or have lived in Rochester, N.Y.: Eva Abrams, Erich Arndt, Arthur Herz, Ellen Lewinsky, Rosemarie Molser, Henry Silberstern, Helen Przysuskier, Evie Schuerman, Kurt Weinbach and Carl Voldman. Written by Wendy Kout and directed by Sandi Henschel, the play strives to put a human face on the important time in history and serves as a cautionary tale of the risks of normalizing hate.
“One of the people portrayed, Henry Silberstern, accompanied Hobart and William Smith Colleges and Nazareth College students on a number of ‘The March: Bearing Witness to Hope’ trips to Germany and Poland,” says Associate Professor of Religious Studies Richard Salter ’86, P’15. “We were so fortunate to be able to learn directly from Henry. As time passes, fewer and fewer survivors remain alive to share their stories. One reason the play is so important is because it brings us some of those stories.”
The play was commissioned by CenterStage Theatre and the Louis S. Wolk Jewish Community Center of Greater Rochester. While originally written for an eighth-grade audience, it has been widely acclaimed by a range of age groups.
“It’s important that the play tells a variety of survivors’ stories, not just one,” says Salter. “Telling multiple stories creates a richer tapestry, preserves a fuller history of the Holocaust and helps prevent the past from becoming a caricature.”
The Human Rights and Genocide Symposium is a speaker and event series that explores a continuum of life-annihilating events and processes in our contemporary world. The symposium, generously funded by Dr. Edward P. Franks ’72, is now in its 20th year. Speakers have included Eli Wiesel, Cornell West, Peter Balakian and Lt. General Roméo Dallaire.