By Reporter staff
The Jewish International Film Fest of Greater Binghamton will hold a virtual showing of the short documentary “Space Torah” on Thursday, March 4, at 7 pm. The showing will followed by a discussion moderated by its executive producer, Rachel Raz. “Space Torah” tells the story of NASA astronaut Dr. Jeff Hoffman, who participated in five space missions and brought a small Torah with him on one mission.
People will be able to register on the Federation website, www.jfgb.org. There is no charge for the film, but donations will be accepted. In addition, viewers will be invited to a follow-up question-and-answer session with Hoffman on Monday, March 15, from 7:30-8:30 pm. The link to the Federation discussion and viewing, and the link to make a reservation for the Hoffman meeting will be sent after the reservation is made.
During his five space missions, Hoffman brought a variety of Jewish objects with him into space. On his last mission in 1996, he brought along a small Torah scroll on board the Space Shuttle Columbia and, on one Shabbat while orbiting the Earth, read from the book of Genesis. Hoffman noted that taking religious objects into space allowed him to bring his own tradition with him during his missions, but that the Torah scroll had special meaning – serving as a symbol of the holiness of human life.
Hoffman, who became an astronaut in 1978, performed four spacewalks during his missions, including the first unplanned, contingency spacewalk in NASA’s history and the initial repair/rescue mission for the Hubble Space Telescope. He was the first astronaut to log 1,000 hours of flights aboard the space shuttle and the first Jewish American male astronaut to fly into space.
In addition to her position as executive producer of “Space Torah,” Raz is the director of the Early Childhood Institute of the Shoolman Graduate School of Jewish Education of Hebrew College in Massachusetts. She also directs the Boston-Haifa Early Childhood Educators’ Connection, serves on the Israeli American Council advisory committee of KESHET and is a board member of UMass Amherst Hillel. In addition, she is the author of the children’s books “ABC Israel” and “The Colors of Israel.”
“Join us for this fascinating documentary,” said Shelley Hubal, executive director of the Federation. “I have had the pleasure of viewing this short film and it was wonderful to learn about Dr. Jeff Hoffman, the first Jewish astronaut, and why it was important to him to bring Jewish objects on his missions. I look forward to hearing what Rachel Raz has to say about the film and hearing from Dr. Hoffman in March.”