February 1, 2013 will mark ten years since the Columbia disaster that claimed the life of Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon. Part of his remarkable story includes some items that he brought with him to space, including a small Torah scroll.
Author Tami Lehman-Wilzig wrote Keeping the Promise, (illustrated by Craig Orback) a children's picture book which follows the incredible journey of a small Torah scroll from a Dutch rabbi to a Bar Mitzvah boy during the Holocaust and finally to Ilan Ramon.
An excerpt from the book:
He thought about his mother who had also been in a concentration camp. After his visit to the professor, he returned to Houston and continued to train for his space voyage. Still, he couldn’t get the story of the tiny Torah scroll out of his mind. Finally, after a few weeks, he called the professor.
“Can I take the Torah scroll with me into outer space?” asked the astronaut. “Yes,” agreed
the professor. “Its story must be told.”
And so the tiny Torah scroll boarded the spaceship Columbia with Israel’s first astronaut, Ilan Ramon. On January 21, 2003, while orbiting the earth, he held up the Torah scroll for all the
world to see. As he told its story, the Torah floated out of his hand in zero gravity. Afterwards he added:
“This little Sefer Torah in particular shows the ability of the Jewish people to survive everything,
even the darkest of times, and to always look forward with hope and faith for the future.”
Learn more about Ilan Ramon's incredible life and journey, as a documentary premieres this week on PBS stations around the United States.