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Local Memorial Services Honor Astronauts

Rabbi: In Space We Are Colorblind

UPDATED: 7:42 a.m. PST February 3, 2003

LOS ANGELES -- Remembrances across California for the seven astronauts who died aboard the space shuttle Columbia sounded similar themes of unity and praise for the lost crew.

A memorial service at the Adat Shalom temple in west Los Angeles ended with the singing of the Israeli national anthem and "America the Beautiful."

"Black and white, man and woman, Jew and Arab, Hispanic and Indian. Does it matter when we go up in space?" said Rabbi Michael Resnick. "Suddenly, there we become colorblind."

About 200 Jews said prayers, lit candles and observed a moment of silence Sunday for Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon and the rest of the crew: Rick Husband, William McCool, Michael Anderson, Kalpana Chawla, David Brown and Laurel Clark.

They were killed Saturday when Columbia broke apart over Texas, scattering debris across hundreds of square miles.

Two young men in the back of the temple waved two flags -- one American, one Israeli.

"We brought them to symbolize unity and to symbolize that we're still standing," said Dov Dalin, 19, an Israeli resident visiting his parents.

John Gordon, 66, of Los Angeles, lit a candle in remembrance of Ramon and described how he met the air force pilot in 2000 at a Los Angeles ceremony celebrating his selection as Israel's first astronaut.

Ramon was the second Jew to explore space, Gordon noted after the service. The first was Judith Resnik, who later died in the Challenger explosion.

"I think in his heart he was trying to complete something that Judith Resnik could not," he said.

At the Baha'i Center in Los Angeles, the mood was somber yet hopeful as about 300 church members celebrated the courage of the astronauts and sought to offer hope to their families and their own community.

"We're here to honor those that were lost and to remember their loved ones who are going through such pain and agony," said Jamie Heath, a church member who led the service.

Readings from the Quran, the Bible, Buddhism and Hinduism were interspersed with songs and prayers. The Baha'i faith teaches that all religions come from God and offer the same truth.

"It is in times like these that we come together to seek the comfort and solace of community prayer," said Randolph Dobbs, secretary of the spiritual assembly of the Baha'is in Los Angeles.

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