Columbia Crew Was of 7 Different Faiths

Grace is an interdenominational charismatic church. Other Christian churches throughout the country marked the deaths of the astronauts with special sermons or readings. The Rev. Riggle chose several short Bible passages to provide comfort to his congregation, including a passage from Proverbs and the famous verses from Ecclesiastes, "To everything there is a season … A time to be born and a time to die." The Grace choir sang, this time without their longtime member and soloist, and ended with "Amazing Grace."

Read more: Rick Husband in his own words

Ilan Ramon — Jewish

Ilan Ramon is being mourned widely in the Jewish community, not only because he made history as Israel's first astronaut but also because he transformed the Columbia from an ordinary shuttle mission into a flight rife with Jewish symbolism. Ramon, the son of a Holocaust survivor, took several Holocaust objects into space with him. He brought a Torah that was used at a Bar Mitzvah ceremony in a concentration camp. He carried a drawing entitled "Moon Landscape," by 14-year-old Petr Ginz, who died at Auschwitz. Ramon also brought on board with him kosher food, a kiddush cup, several mezuzahs, and a credit-card sized microfiche of the Bible given to him by Israeli President Moshe Katsav. Ramon is said to have spoken the words to the Shema, the fundamental Jewish prayer, as the space shuttle passed over Jerusalem.

Many Jews first heard about the tragedy en route to Shabbat services on Saturday morning, and some rabbis delivered impromptu sermons based on the disaster. Others marked the tragedy with a few words or a special kaddish during the Saturday morning services. Some communities are holding memorial services throughout the week, including one held Monday at Yeshiva University, where president Norman Lamm praised Ramon: "What a magnificent gesture, what a magnificent Jew, what a magnificent human being."

Though there have been other Jewish astronauts, Ramon's mission took on added significance because he went to space at such a difficult time for Israel. He served as "a hopeful beacon," said his friend Rabbi Mark Blazer, of Temple Beth Ami in Santa Clarita, Calif.

Ramon was viewed as a hero in Israel. The Israeli government had already issued a postage stamp commemorating Israel's first astronaut. "The average Israeli knew far more about this mission than the average American," noted Blazer. Blazer was at the launch, and described a moving moment when many of the Jews and Israelis gathered at Cape Canaveral broke out into the song, "Oseh Shalom" ("Make Peace"). Blazer said that song was true to Ramon's message, that "this [space travel] is what can happen when people make peace."

The Israeli and Jewish communities are using technology to mourn Ramon as well. The Israeli Defense Force, which Ramon served as a colonel in the air force, set up a special email address,, where mourners can send messages that will be delivered to the family. One Israeli company has set up a Web site where users can light virtual candles in honor of Ramon and leave a message in either Hebrew or English.

Read more and share your thoughts: Reflections on a hero by Rabbi Mark Blazer

Michael P. Anderson — Baptist

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