The Story

SUMMARY

I think that this story should be told because it’s a special story, a special moment in the lives of three people. It demonstrates many, many things for both Jew and non-Jew, it also reminds [us] of what people can descend to, on one hand, and what other persons can ascend to.

— Joachim Joseph, PhD

Dawn is breaking on the morning of February 1, 2003 above West Texas. Suddenly the peace of the early morning is shattered by two loud bangs. The Space Shuttle Columbia is announcing its return home, causing sonic booms as it streaks across the sky at three times the speed of sound. The shuttle is speeding toward a Florida homecoming. But in an instant, onlookers below and controllers in Houston are stunned at what they see. Something has gone horribly wrong. The shuttle has broken up, vanished! Gone is its precious cargo of seven astronauts from around the world. Among them, Col. Ilan Ramon, Israel’s first Astronaut.

Also gone, an artifact that embodied the glory of the Shuttle’s mission and the despair of its demise: a tiny Torah scroll – smuggled into a concentration camp during the Holocaust; safeguarded by Joachim Joseph, a Holocaust survivor; and carried into space by Ilan Ramon. It is a unique story that interweaves the heights of scientific achievement, the depths of a nation’s cruelty, the private grief of a boy who came of age during the Holocaust, and the public mourning of many nations in the aftermath of the Columbia Shuttle disaster. To fulfill the promise that a boy in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp made during the Holocaust — to use the Torah scroll to tell the world what happened in the camp — comes Space Shuttle Columbia: Mission of Hope, an hour-long film exploring the journey of the Torah from pre-World War II Europe, to Israel, to the United States, and to space. Combining historical and ethical inquiry, the film reaches across faiths and nationalities to tell a truly human story.