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Eulogy for a Dead Astronaut: Resnik Described As One Who Heeded the Call to ‘Touch the Stars’

February 4, 1986
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Dr. Judith Resnik, who died last Tuesday in the Challenger space shuttle with six of her astronaut colleagues, was eulogized at a memorial service at Temple Israel here Friday as “a daring pioneering spirit ” who heard and heeded the call to “go upward, climb higher, touch the stars.”

Rabbi Abraham Feffer, spiritual leader of Temple Beth El– where Resnik was Bat Mitzvahed and confirmed — told the approximately 850 participants in the service that “she achieved what she had worked for and died doing what she loved best … She left us many achievements and much love…”

Feffer told the participants that before her first space flight in 1984, Resnik had stopped at his office with her father, asking for a blessing. “I prayed the traditional Jewish prayer — ‘As she goes in peace, so may she return in peace.’ ”

Beginning his eulogy with a two-line quote from Hannah Senesch’s famous poem, “Blessed is the Match,” the rabbi said that Resnik “felt the need to extend the horizons of America and the world, to reach great heights, and to enhance life on this planet Earth… She was the match and the flame in which she was consumed.”


Feffer called Resnik “brilliant, sensitive and compassionate.” He said she had “an inner beauty — the beauty of a sensitive soul and a loving heart.” A gifted musician, when she played the piano, “there was more than technical mastery– you were privileged to hear her poetic spirit expressing itself,” he said.

Although he had first met Resnik when he officiated at her wedding in 1970, he had heard from her teachers that she had graduated Firestone High School here with an A average, and that she was at the “top of her Bat Mitzvah class ” of 1962 and her confirmation class of 1967 at the Conservative Temple Beth El.

Resnik was a “goal-oriented person,” Feffer told participants in the service. “It was as if she heard an inner voice constantly challenging her to greater achievements.”

Although he had reason to believe her synagogue attendance after leaving Akron was “irregular,” Resnik’s ‘Integrity, her forth rightness and commitment to truth was such that I wish many of those who do attend services regularly possessed and expressed” such qualities, he said.

The rabbi also addressed the feeling he had heard voiced by some people that Resnik was “somewhat distant from our people.” He said, “Frankly, when a young American astronaut still calls her father ‘Abba’ and her grandmother ‘Bubbie,’ that astronaut is not too far from our people.”

The service opened with a chanting of the 23rd psalm by Cantor Steve Stein of Temple Beth-El, the Reform synagogue where Resnik’s father, Marvin Resnik, is a member. The temple’s spiritual leader, Rabbi David Horowitz, spoke briefly, saying Resnik “would be with us forever.”

Akron’s Mayor Thomas Sawyer and Ohio Governor Richard Celeste praised Resnik in brief remarks, and the city’s third rabbi, Abraham Leibtag of the Revere Road Congregation, read another Psalm. Cantor Gedalia Gertz of Temple Israel led the congregation in the “El Moley Rachamim” prayer.

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