Men on the Moon

What a way to start the week! I had the honor of being at the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education to watch Governor Kate Brown sign into law Senate Bill 664. The legislation requires school districts to provide instruction on the Holocaust and genocide beginning with the 2020-2021 school year. It also mandates that the State Board of Education develop academic content standards for Holocaust and genocide studies. This is an important step to make sure Oregon will never forget.
On September 12, 1962, President John F. Kennedy said:
“I do say that space can be explored and mastered without feeding the fires of war, without repeating the mistakes that man has made in extending his writ around this globe of ours. There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation may never come again. But why, some say, the Moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask, why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? … We choose to go to the Moon! We choose to go to the Moon ... We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too.”
Tomorrow we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 moon landing (and also my daughter’s birthday). An incredible feat less than seven years after President Kennedy challenged our country. Now, I was only three weeks old when this happened and do not remember it. But I have seen plenty of movies and clips about the mission, as well as learned about the history of our space program, including reading the book (and seeing the movie)The Right Stuff about the first Project Mercury astronauts selected for the NASA space program.
I recently watched a CNN special with new footage of the entire process, as well as watched the actual news coverage of the Apollo 11 launch on July 16, 1969. I was so moved by this incredible accomplishment, yet I must admit I also feel jaded. You see, for people my age, space travel seems so easy and commonplace. Moreover, I grew up in Florida watching the Space Shuttle launch each and every time (we could see it in Orlando about 10 seconds after takeoff), and despite the two shuttle catastrophes, it became almost “ho hum.”
Watching these videos from 1969 gave me a far better understanding of the importance of this historic space mission. It was a scientific/engineering marvel. We beat the Russians. We did something no other country had done. We actually landed people on the moon. Who could have imagined? Even Walter Cronkite had to wipe tears from his eyes when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon. This was an incredible achievement for our country! I am sure many of you were glued to the television watching.
One thing I did observe while watching the CNN special was the space flight control room. All those men in their white shirts and black ties sitting in front of scores of computers and screens. I thought about it and said to myself that my tiny cell phone probably has more capabilities/memory/power than all those computers combined. Think about it.
Two interesting facts I learned from an article in The Oregonian:
  • The walls of the lunar module were as thin as a few sheets of printer paper. The capsule was so small, no chairs were allowed, so the astronauts had to stand and use harnesses, handholds, and Velcro straps on the soles of their shoes to keep from bouncing around the cabin.
  • Upon returning to earth, the astronauts had to declare "moon dust" at customs. Can you imagine? Buzz Aldrin revealed that the astronauts had to sign customs forms like somebody would for a trip to a foreign country; they declared to be carrying "moon rock and moon dust samples." 
The Apollo 11 moon landing was an incredible achievement for our country. It was the largest peacetime government initiative in our nation’s history. At its peak in the mid-1960s, nearly 2% of the American workforce was engaged in the effort to some degree, employing more than 400,000 individuals, most of them working for 20,000 different private companies and 200 universities. It just shows that anything we set our mind to, we can accomplish!
On a different note, I am sure many of you have seen the activity on the land adjacent to the Mittleman Jewish Community Center (MJCC). The land is owned by the Jewish Federation and leased to the MJCC. An agreement has been reached to sublease part of the property to Cascadia Clusters, a nonprofit that trains houseless Portlanders and community volunteers to “build from the ground up” affordable, sustainable, and high quality transitional housing – “tiny homes.”
They are using the land to create a “maker village,” where Cascadia Clusters plans to have 10 “build spots” at any one time (they are also doing building at Congregation Neveh Shalom). It takes 2-3 months to build a tiny home and costs approximately $18,000 in parts and labor. When the houses are completed, they will go out into the community where they are needed. No one is living at the site.
It is our hope that as many Jewish organizations and individuals as possible will get involved in the building process. In fact, they have tools and materials for up to 50 volunteers at any one time. Our staff previously volunteered at another site and it was a fantastic experience. If interested in helping to build, please contact Cascadia Clusters.
Shabbat Shalom,


Add Comment