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Performers honored by Sister Rose fund
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Performers honored by Sister Rose fund

Tom Dugan in Wiesenthal, the Off-Broadway play he wrote and starred in.
Tom Dugan in Wiesenthal, the Off-Broadway play he wrote and starred in.

A choreographer and a playwright were honored at Seton Hall University for works that reflect the legacy of Sister Rose Thering, the late faculty member and activist who worked to improve Jewish-Christian relations.

The Sister Rose Thering Fund for Education in Jewish-Christian Studies bestowed its Humanitarian Awards on Carolyn Dorfman whose works often reflect on the Holocaust, and Tom Dugan, a playwright and actor whose one-man play about Simon Wiesenthal uses humor to convey the Nazi hunter’s dogged pursuit of war criminals.

The awards were presented May 3 at the 22nd annual Evening of Roses, which benefits the scholarship fund.

Titled “Witness to Liberation,” the event marked the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. The program included a reception to honor a group of survivors and liberators, present with their family members on the South Orange campus.

Dugan grew up in Winfield Park Township and studied at Montclair State University. He lives now in California and couldn’t be present, but his longtime friend Chris Andrus accepted the award on his behalf. Dugan, the son of a World War II infantry veteran who helped liberate a sub-camp of Buchenwald, performed his play Wiesenthal Off-Broadway earlier this year. The program note on Dugan quoted him as saying his goal was not only to educate people about Wiesenthal’s pursuit of justice, but also to share his “message of tolerance and human understanding.”

The evening included a performance, by Katlyn Waldo, of A Dance of Hope, created by Dorfman in honor of her parents, who survived the Holocaust.

The dance, Dorfman said, “honors the survivors’ ability to fall, to endure, and to rise again.” Dorfman, founder of the Union-based Carolyn Dorfman Dance Company, often creates works with Jewish themes, celebrating specific traditions but also values shared with other groups. 

Dorfman and other speakers, including Seton Hall president Gabriel Esteban; the fund’s executive director, David Bossman; and broadcast journalist Anisa Mehdi, a graduate student in the Jewish-Christian Studies Department, all underlined the strength demonstrated by the events’ honorees in dealing with the trauma they endured in World War II.

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