How to Help a Tiny Torah Scroll Kickstart An Article of Hope

May 16th, 2012 | Shonali Burke | 11 Comments

the doomed crew of the space shuttle ColumbiaWhat could a group of astronauts and the Holocaust possibly have in common?

More than you think.

And before you read further, there is an ask involved, to help get a very moving documentary to American television screens via PBS and Kickstarter.

But do read further, because I think when you hear the story, you’ll see why it’s important to try to help.

An Article of Hope

I first heard about the documentary film, An Article of Hope, from Debra Silimeo (Debra’s a senior executive with a well-respected DC agency, and also happens to be a neighbor, friend and Bootcamp Buddy of mine).

Turns out she’s married to Dan Cohen, an Emmy award-winning veteran journalist and documentary filmmaker. And seven years ago, Dan started out to make a film about a Holocaust story, centered around the journey of a tiny Torah scroll given to boy in a secret Bar Mitzvah in a Nazi concentration camp.

“From the depths of hell to the heights of space”

Ilan RamonThe boy survived, and became a scientist, who ended up working on the Space Shuttle Columbia mission. You remember what a horrible tragedy that was, right? The shuttle disintegrating over Texas, on February 1, 2003, literally minutes before it was scheduled to conclude its 28th mission, killing all seven crew members on board?

One of those seven crew members was Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli astronaut. And Ramon was carrying that same scroll with him when he embarked on what turned out to be the final adventure of his life, to show the world, from space, what can happen when, in his words, “You go from the depths of hell, to the heights of space.”

That’s a pretty powerful way of demonstrating the power of the human spirit, don’t you think? Not to mention the diversity of the seven doomed astronauts from around the world … in stark contrast to the Holocaust itself, a horrific attempt to stamp out diversity.

Check out this trailer of the movie:

Diversity matters

If there’s one thing we who are immersed in digital media do every day, it’s celebrate diversity.

We meet people from all around the world in the blink of an eye. We connect with different minds from different backgrounds in the blink of an eye. We do this so effortlessly, in fact, that it’s easy to forget diversity hasn’t always been celebrated (and, let’s face it, still isn’t in some parts of the world and, yes, of this country).

So let’s help Dan and his team see their dream come true.

Let’s help them finish telling the story of the scroll, the survivor and the doomed hero(es). Because it’s an important story to tell.

They’ve already been honored with “Best Film” awards at various film festivals around the country; and now they need our help to bring a critically-acclaimed piece of storytelling into America’s homes.

How to help?

Dan and his team need to raise $50k via their Kickstarter page by May 26 (I’ve already backed the project)… else it won’t get funded at all (that’s how Kickstarter works).

Will you help? Please chip in if you can. If you can’t, please share the link, or this post, or both, with your friends and family.

Spread the word to what I know are the incredibly diverse circles each of us is a part of.

Let’s help bring this story full circle. Please.

Thank you!

Images courtesy Dan Cohen, used with permission

Shonali Burke
Head honcho of Waxing UnLyrical, Shonali Burke is President & CEO of Shonali Burke Consulting, Inc. Based in the Washington, D.C., area, she loves helping for- and non-profit clients, both small and large, turn corporate codswallop into community cool™. She also loves ABBA, bacon, cooking, dogs, and Elvis. Wouldn't you like to be in her kitchen?
Shonali Burke
Shonali Burke
Shonali Burke

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Thank you, Shonali, for sharing this story.  I remember reading about Ilon and the Torah at the time of the crash.  I hope your friend gets the needed support to make this film.


I am passing it on through my crew. My kids go to a Jewish Day school. They know this story and most of the pieces of the puzzle that are connected to it.


I was playing with my son the day we lost the Columbia. It was so surreal. I was a junior in high school when the Challenger blew up and that was crazy too, but this story really gets me for personal reasons.

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Oh my gosh, I watched his trailer a few weeks ago and I was captivated. I just told Debra today (before I even knew you blogged about this...weirddddd) that I really enjoyed the trailer and have always been mesmerized by those with a talent such as this. Documentary Film class was one of my favorite courses I ever took in college. I will definitely support this!

Debra Silimeo
Debra Silimeo

You so often make me smile, and always make me think, with your writing.  This touches my heart. Thank you Shonali!  Debra

Shonali moderator

 @AbbieF When I heard about it, I knew I had to do something to help. And what folks like you and I can do is tell the story, or pass it along, right? Thank you so much for reading and helping to share as well, Abbie!

Shonali moderator

 @TheJackB Thank you so much, Jack! 

I think that was a surreal day for all of us who are old enough to remember it. I remember how proud I was that Kalpana Chawla was one of the crew; not just an Indian-American, but an Indian-American woman, at that. People back in India were really proud too. So the disaster was really a global tragedy.

Thank you so much again for helping to spread the word. You're the best.

Shonali moderator

 @Debra Silimeo You are so welcome! Thank you for introducing me to @dancohen1 and this amazing film. I really hope he gets the funding he needs.


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