What does Astronaut Gordon Cooper have to do with Temple Sholom? Thursday in Temple Sholom History

220px-Gordon_Cooper_2.jpgFound a curious bit of info in the 1963 D’var from the first week of June. This small article (no more than 50 words) is titled L’envoi – Rabbi Binstock and Fredrick A. Eisenberg  have signed it.

It’s a dedication that reads:

We close our past year of wonderful temple activities with the exciting outer space achievement of Astronaut Gordon Cooper still filling our minds and hearts with great pride and anticipation for the future. We cannot say “farewell” without expressing the hope that our achievements in inner space within our minds and hearts and souls through the ever increasing and inspiring thrust of Judaism will fill us with the same joy and anticipation – and above all PEACE.

May God please us and keep us in health and happiness until we meet again.

This “farewell” message was interesting to me – I guess in those days, the bulletin was put to bed for the Summer after June 1 did not return until August 31 – something that would save me some sweat and elbow grease. But the fact that it included the reference to Astronaut Cooper was curious to me. Was it just that everyone was so into the space race at that time that the Rabbis felt it pertinent to mention it in this farewell message? It’s clearly and apt metaphor – exploring outer space and inner space – but I wonder – why Cooper?

I looked into it further and on May 15-16, 1963, Cooper piloted the “Faith 7” spacecraft on a 22-orbit mission which concluded the operational phase of Project Mercury.  The flight lasted 34 hours and 20 minutes. It was the longest and final of the solo Mercury projects.  Was there something the Rabbi’s saw in this that resonated? How a person can be alone in space and in contemplation?

As far as I can tell Astronaut Cooper wasn’t Jewish, but perhaps everyone (especially Rabbis) was looking toward outer space in those days.

Jason Lindner is the Marketing & Communications Director at Temple Sholom and the Assistant for Cantor Aviva Katzman. He has worked at Temple since 2009 and is also and actor an a playwright.