On January 31, most PBS stations across the U.S. will broadcast the documentary renamed “Space Shuttle Columbia: Mission of Hope” about the Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon and his participation in the tragic flight of SS Columbia. The film, originally titled “An Article of Hope,” was premiered at the JCCs of North America Biennial in Atlanta in 2010, and has been seen at many JCCs since then. JCC Association, the leadership network of the Jewish Community Center Movement, prepared a teacher’s guide to go with the film, which is available online. Local times are available on the PBS website. Some stations will screen it multiple times.
“Space Shuttle Columbia: Mission of Hope” tells the remarkable true story of Colonel Ilan Ramon, Israel’s first astronaut, and the tiny Torah from the Bergen Belsen concentration camp that he carried with him aboard the space shuttle “from the depths of hell to the heights of space.” The Torah had been given to Ramon by a man who smuggled it out of Bergen Belsen. In addition to Ramon’s inspiring life story, the film incorporates the tale of the Columbia crew, whose diverse backgrounds demonstrated to the world what is possible when people work together for the greater good.
The film’s line producer Matthew Goldberg brought it to the attention of his father, Alan Goldberg, vice-president, JCC Association, while the documentary was in production. “When I heard about the documentary and its subject, I realized that it talked about the importance of community and our history as a Jewish community. It felt like a story that our JCCs should share,” Goldberg said.
“We encourage JCCs to share the teacher’s guide with schools, temples, synagogues, Federations and the community at large,” said David Ackerman, director of the Mandel Center of Jewish History, which created the teacher’s guide. “JCCs have an opportunity to demonstrate educational leadership about the importance of our JCC and community relationship to Israel and our history.”
The film took more than seven years to complete, and includes rare drawings from the concentration camp and archival NASA footage of the astronauts as they prepared for their mission. Interviewees include Ilan Ramon’s widow, Rona Ramon, and other Columbia crew family members, astronauts Garrett Reisman and Steve MacLean, members of NASA’s space program, Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres and many others. The film was shot on location throughout the world, from Jerusalem to the Kennedy Space Center to Washington, D.C.