13 October 2003
Yad Vashem will be entrusted with a Torah scroll written in memory of Israel’s first astronaut, Colonel Ilan Ramon, who died in the tragic destruction of the space shuttle Columbia in January.
The Torah scroll will accompany Israel Defense Forces (IDF) delegations on visits to sites of mass murder of Jews in Poland during the Holocaust. The Torah scroll dedication ceremony will begin in the auditorium at Yad Vashem on Wednesday, October 15 at 5:00 PM. From the auditorium, a procession will escort the scroll to Yad Vashem’s synagogue, where it will remain in trust. Participants will include the donor of the Torah scroll, Mrs. Debra Korman; Col. Ramon’s father, Eliezer Wolferman; the Chief Education Officer of the IDF, Brig. Gen. Elazar Stern; Chairman of the Yad Vashem Directorate, Avner Shalev; and 200 IDF officers who are participating in a preparatory seminar at Yad Vashem in advance of their visit to Poland.
In keeping with ancient Jewish honorary tradition, the writing of the Torah scroll in Ramon’s memory was initiated by Mrs. Debra Korman, a private donor from New York. Mrs. Korman presented the scroll to Col. Ramon’s widow Rona, who endowed it to the IDF with the request that it accompany IDF delegations on their visits to Holocaust sites in Poland. The IDF Chief Education Officer is entrusting the scroll to Yad Vashem, where it will be kept between visits abroad.
Chairman of the Yad Vashem Directorate Avner Shalev said, “there is powerful symbolism in the new custom of IDF officers visiting Holocaust sites in Europe, accompanied by a Torah scroll dedicated to an Israeli hero and son of a Holocaust survivor. Col. Ramon was an accomplished officer and citizen, and he was widely regarded as an embodiment of the rebirth of the Jewish People in Israel. We are honored to be entrusted with this special Torah scroll, which is a tangible complement to the seminars IDF officers attend at Yad Vashem before their departure to Poland. It bears noble witness to the past, present and future of the Jewish People.”
Prior to the ill-fated shuttle mission, Ramon contacted Yad Vashem and requested an artifact from the Holocaust to take with him on his space flight. Yad Vashem gave him a copy of Petr Ginz’s drawing Moon Landscape, which reflects the young artist’s vision of how the earth would look from the moon. Ginz was murdered in Auschwitz at the age of 16. Col. Ramon’s mother and grandmother are survivors of Auschwitz, and his grandfather and other members of his family perished in the Holocaust.