Does anyone remember the Space Shuttle Disaster? That was 10 years ago this month. Well, I’ve known about this documentary for about 8 years. When I first heard about it, the story was around the “Tiny Torah”. It has since made its way to a PBS documentary. Below, is a note from a friend of mine who work for years to get this project done. I hope you find a way to watch it.
Regarding the Anniversary of the Columbia:
For those interested, the documentary I worked on for several years, “An Article of Hope,” is scheduled to show on PBS beginning on January 31st. (http://missionofhopemovie.com/). I understand that it has been retitled, “Space Shuttle Columbia: Mission of Hope”. (February 2013 marks the tenth anniversary of the tragic loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia crew.) Please check local listings to confirm date/time/local channel. (I believe that it is not being shown until February 6th in the DC area, for example.)
I was Chief of Staff at NASA at the time of Columbia’s loss. I was also given the honor of delivering the first Israeli astronaut’s remains (Col. Ilan Ramon) back to his home country for burial. The film focuses on the tiny Torah, among other artifacts, that Col. Ramon took into space to commemorate his country’s history. Once I left NASA, I spent many years helping with this documentary, as a volunteer, by introducing the director (an aspiring filmmaker) to the key NASA officials, the Columbia families, and most importantly Dr. Yoya Joseph, who received a tiny Torah as part of his Bar Mitzvah in Bergen-Belsen during his time as a prisoner. In addition, I introduced the director to the producers and together we made the initial pitch to Tom Hank’s Playtone company that produced it.
A few years back, several of you reading this kindly provided some critical funds to ensure the completion of this project. For some reason, many contributors have been left off the list on the website but please know that I am very grateful to you for helping so that this story could be told.
Does this film fulfill the original artistic vision for this project? In fact, it falls quite short. On the other hand, it fulfills a promise made to the late, great Dr. Joseph who, after surviving the horrors of Bergen-Belsen, went on to become a well-known atmospheric physicist in Israel. We promised to tell his story. I also think the film does a reasonable job of showcasing the bonding among the diverse and courageous Columbia crew and provides insight into what made Col. Ramon such an amazing and inspiring figure. What matters most of all to me is that a Rabbi’s gift of a tiny Torah to a starving boy, as part of a hurried Bar Mitzvah ceremony – an incredible act of hope and kindness amidst unimaginable savagery – has been memorialized. This Rabbi was terribly brutalized by the camp guards for courageously wearing his rabbinical garb and carrying on his role (as best he could) as leader of his community. I like that the names of his tormentors are lost in the black void of history while the kind gesture of this brave man lives on through Yoya and so many others.