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Mezuzahs in Space

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Astronaut Jeffrey Hoffman, a crew member aboard the current five-day mission of the space shuttle Discovery, is carrying in his personal flight kit four mezuzahs and two atarot, the inscription on the collar of a tallit.

The 40-year-old Hoffman of Clear Lake City, Texas, a suburb near Houston, is the first Jewish male astronaut to go up into space. Judith Resnik was the first Jewish woman to go into space when she was a crew member last June aboard the shuttle Discovery.

Hoffman, active in Congregation Shaar Hasholom as past president of the men’s club, spoke with Rabbi Arnold Stiebel, spiritual leader of the congregation, about doing something of “Jewish interest” during the Discovery flight.

The four mezuzahs include one of hand blown glass designed by Shirley Kagan, who with Brenda Bernstein runs a Judaica gallery in Manhattan. The others are ceramic designed by Marcia Penzer of Woodmere, Long Island.

Hoffman, an astrophysicist, plans to present the glass mezuzah to the Israel Museum. One of the ceramic ones will go to the Jewish Museum in New York, another to Congregation Shaar Hasholom and the fourth he will hold onto for personal use, Stiebel told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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