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`Nobody could talk'-A tribute to Col. Ramon



Submitted by Arthur - N1ORC with previous permisson granted by the
Houston Chronicle

Feb. 1, 2003, 4:44PM

`Nobody could talk'
Sobs fill synagogue, temple in remembrance of Israeli hero
By CLAUDIA FELDMAN
Copyright 2003 Houston Chronicle
Thousands of Houston Jews were on their way to synagogue or in temple
today when they got word that the space shuttle Columbia broke apart in
the sky over Texas. 

Many felt a special connection to Col. Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli ever
to fly in space and a hero in his country. 

While Ramon trained for the historic flight, he and his family became a
part of the greater Houston Jewish community and attended Congregation
Shaar Hashalom near the Johnson Space Center. 

Maya Grijalva, a friend, said the synagogue was filled with the sounds of
sobbing this morning. 

"Nobody could talk," Grijalva said. "We'd been to his house. He'd been to
our houses. He was a great man, but a very down-to-earth person. He made
himself one of the crowd. He always talked to the kids. He always played
with the kids. He was that kind of person." 

Lee Wunsch, chief executive officer of the Jewish Federation of Greater
Houston, also had met Ramon. 

"I was impressed by his kindness and his reaching out to the Jewish
community." 

Wunsch was on his way to Congregation Beth Yeshurun when he received a
call with the news. He returned home because the calls from bereft
Houstonians just kept coming. 

Several Houston families had attended the launch last month, and were
looking forward to welcoming Ramon home, Wunsch said. 

"Our prayers are with all the astronauts' families." 

Bernard Goldberg, a longtime member of Congregation Brith Shalom, was
relaxing with friends after early-morning services when someone
approached him with the news. 

"I felt a chill and tremendous sadness," Goldberg said. "Some people
started to cry. Ramon had four kids and elderly parents. We were supposed
to go out on Sunday and honor him. The whole thing -- terrible." 

Howard Stone, a member of Congregation Beth Israel, might have been at
synagogue when the accident occurred had it not been for an early-morning
soccer tournament. 

"I got the phone call," the soccer coach said. "My first thought was,
`How can we keep going with this game?' ... I'll never forget where I was
during the Challenger tragedy, and I'll never forget this." 

It was tough to explain the news to his teenage players, he said. "It's
such a beautiful day. This is disheartening." 

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