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National Library of Israel gets a celestial space diary

Jewish astronaut Jeff Hoffman presented the high-flying book, which he used on space missions, to the library in Jerusalem.

Jewish astronaut Jeff Hoffman presents his archive at the National Library of Israel in Jerusalem on March 23, 2023. Credit: National Library of Israel.
Jewish astronaut Jeff Hoffman presents his archive at the National Library of Israel in Jerusalem on March 23, 2023. Credit: National Library of Israel.

It’s a diary of cosmic proportions, which has rubbed shoulders with the stars.

The Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian owns a flute, which the first astronaut enrolled in an American Indian tribe played aboard the International Space Station, and it has displayed feathers that made it into orbit. Now, the National Library of Israel’s collection includes a diary, which the first Jewish male astronaut in space used on his space voyages.

Jeff Hoffman is the first astronaut to read from a Torah in space. He has also brought a dreidel, menorah, yad (Torah pointer), mezuzah, Kiddush cup, Havdalah set and a plaque bearing the Hebrew prayer for travelers into orbit.

Astronaut Jeff Hoffman. Credit: Courtesy of the Space Torah project.

On March 23, he presented the volume to the Jerusalem library, which is collecting historically significant diaries. The Jewish astronaut was the first to log 1,000 hours aboard the space shuttle, per a library release, and he performed four spacewalks in the course of five missions.

His experiences (he became a NASA astronaut in 1978) include “the first unplanned contingency spacewalk in NASA’s history, and the initial repair/rescue mission for the Hubble Space Telescope,” according to the library.

“Hoffman saw the act of bringing religious objects into space as part of bringing his own tradition with him,” it added. “But bringing the Torah into space had the added symbolic meaning and significance of bringing the holiness of human life into space.”

As for Hoffman, who recalled his first visit to Israel in 1962, he said: “Who would have believed then that I would be here today to open the Jeffrey Hoffman archive?”

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