An $8 million gymnasium for disabled Israeli war veterans is to be built in Jerusalem as a memorial to Judith Resnik and her fellow astronauts who died aboard the space shuttle Challenger.
"The media has given all its attention to Christa McAuliffe," said Dr. Erika Freeman-Padan, chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee for the Memorial. "But there was another woman who died in space . . . she is the American daughter of the Jewish people."
At a fund-raising kickoff Friday night at the Park Avenue apartment of composer Marvin Hamlisch, Hamlisch played the piano and sang for guests who paid $250 to $1,000 a head, including singer Carly Simon, actress Emma Samms of "The Colbys," New York cultural commissioner Bess Myerson and former New York congressman Herman Badillo.
"We're all united here," Hamlisch said, as he launched into "One," his hit tune from the musical "A Chorus Line." Hamlisch, cochairman of the memorial committee, entertained the crowd with a comedy routine centering on rabbis, the High Holy Days and the differences between Jews and Gentiles, noting, "In case you're checking out my Judaism, I'm playing the piano from right to left."
The Judith Resnik Memorial is to be built as part of Jerusalem's Beit Halochem ("The House of the Warrior") rehabilitation center. The center will be the third to be built by the New York-based B'nai Zion Foundation, the largest Zionist fraternal organization in the United States. The existing centers, in Tel Aviv and Haifa, serve a total of 35,000 veterans.
"It is fitting that a memorial to this brave, pioneering young woman who grew up deeply aware of and proud of her Jewish heritage be located in a land whose existence is itself a monument to the vision of its founders and the pioneering spirit of its settlers," said Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio), a committee member, in a statement read at the kickoff.
Judith Resnik's father, Dr. Marvin Resnik, is honorary chairman of the committee. Other members include Sen. Howard Metzenbaum (D-Ohio), composer Leonard Bernstein, former representative Bella Abzug, writer Betty Friedan, cartoonist Ranan Lurie, Elie Wiesel, Theodore Bikel and Shelley Winters.
Judith Resnik was the second U.S. woman in space after Sally Ride and the first person of Jewish descent. However, she eschewed either label, saying she wanted to be known merely as another professional astronaut.