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Stockton Holocaust Center, Rowan Partner to Tell Women Survivor Stories

Stories of Holocaust survivors from South Jersey will be told in original short plays as a collaboration between the Rowan University Department of Theatre and Dance and the Sara and Sam Schoffer Holocaust Resource Center at Stockton University. The series of plays, called “The Manya Project,” will be performed in two free performances in the Tohill Theatre in Bunch Hall at Rowan University at 7:30 p.m. on April 27 and 28.

Tickets are free. Doors open at 7:10 p.m. For further details, call 856-256-4545.

The collaboration began when Anthony Hostetter, an assistant professor in the theater department at Rowan University in Glassboro, contacted the Sara and Sam Schoffer Holocaust Resource Center at Stockton asking to work together to highlight life stories of Holocaust survivors who had written memoirs through the Stockton Center’s “Writing as Witness Project.”

Three of the four plays were created from the memoirs of Holocaust survivors Elizabeth Ehrlich Roth of Vineland, Rosalie Lebovic Simon of Margate and the late Rose Ickowicz Rechnic of Atlantic City, who died in 2006. The project also features a play about the late Itka Frajman Zygmuntowicz, a native of Poland who lived in Philadelphia. She died in October 2020.

Gail Rosenthal, executive director of the Stockton Holocaust Center, said she was honored to participate, saying, “It is essential that we take advantage of every opportunity to tell the stories of our Holocaust survivors. It is especially poignant that these are stories of local survivors.”

Two plays Rella, Rose, and I: Elizabeth Ehrlich Roth’s Story of Survival and I am Itkolo: The Story of Itka Frajman Zygmuntowicz will be performed on April 27. Two additional plays, Try to Survive: Rose Ickowicz Rechnic’s Memory of the Holocaust and Girl in a Striped Dress: The Holocaust Story of Rosalie Lebovic Simon will be performed April 28.

Stockton’s Holocaust Resource Center arranged and participated in meetings and interviews with the Holocaust survivors and their families. The final products are original plays written by Hostetter about each of the survivors. Each play will be performed by graduating Rowan University students as their capstones.

“It has been extraordinary, life-affirming, and inspiring working with Rosalie Lebovic Simon, Elizabeth Ehrlich Roth, their families, and the family of Rose Ickowicz Rechnic on these three plays. They all took time from their busy lives to attend first-draft readings of the scripts and offered many suggestions and infinite support for the actors and for me,” said Hostetter, who is also Mainstage Season producer for Rowan’s Department of Theatre and Dance.

“I hope these plays do justice to these heroic women who experienced so much tragedy but went onto show the world that humanity, compassion, and love is ultimately stronger that violence and hate,” Hostetter said.

The project was also supported by the Rowan Center for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide, & Human Rights.