How Purim Relates to Aerospace History

From Our Holdings

This space-suit costume was supposed to be sold for Purim 2003. The very first Israeli astronaut, Ilan Ramon, who launched into space as part of a research mission on 16 January 2003, was destined to be a national hero.

Religious Observance in Orbit

He was accompanying six American colleagues on the Space Shuttle Columbia research mission. Ramon consulted with a rabbi before going into orbit on questions of Jewish observance in space. If there is a sunset every 90 minutes, should Shabbat be observed every ten and a half hours? And the New Year comes around every 20 days…

Purim Costumes and a Tragic Accident

Back on earth, the Jewish festival of Purim, commemorating the rescue of Persian Jews, fell on 17 March in 2013. As part of the holiday festivities, children wear costumes and often dress up as their heroes. That year, Israeli costume manufacturers prepared themselves for a rush on astronaut costumes. The products ranged from a close replica of Ramon's suit with an Israeli flag on the left shoulder and a NASA logo on the chest to simple boiler suits made of orange polyesters. The costumes were already on the market when the Columbia Shuttle exploded and the entire crew was tragically killed, shortly before the scheduled landing on the 1st of February.

A Costume Spurned

The vast stock of astronaut Purim costumes became a matter of hot debate. Many stores immediately withdrew the costumes from their shelves. Angry parents were frustrated that they were unable to buy the costume as a tribute to Ilan Ramon and their children muttered that they would rather be Batman. The costume shown here was acquired on a back street of Tel Aviv from a pile of costumes that had been withdrawn from distribution and is now part of the Jewish Museum Berlin's collection as one of several Purim costumes.

Title Astronaut Purim costume
Collection Judaica
Location and year of origin Israel, 2003
Medium Synthetic fiber
Dimensions 104 x 35 cm
Orange astronaut costume with embroidered symbols

Astronaut Purim costume; Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Jens Ziehe

Selected Objects (6) Judaica Collection Show all

Judaica Collection

Our collection of ceremonial objects ranges widely from a valuable eighteenth-century Torah curtain donated by Formet and Moses Mendelssohn to contemporary ritual items to small kitchen supplies for following Jewish dietary laws.

Seder Plate by Harriete Estel Berman

What is unusual about this contemporary seder plate is its additional recess for an orange, marking a new custom which has found growing popularity among feminists in recent decades.

Scouring Pads

“No more kitchen confusion!” Three color-coded scrub brushes from the US make it easier to keep track of Jewish dietary rules.

Torah Ornaments by Kurt Matzdorf

The artist Kurt J. Matzdorf is known for his modern interpretations. Alongside the classic materials of silver and gold, he used colored acrylic for his Judaica.

Torah Curtain Donated by the Mendelssohns

Moses and Fromet Mendelssohn commissioned a Torah curtain, probably using the fabric from Fromet's wedding dress, and donated it to a synagogue in Berlin in 1774–75.

Hanukkah Toys

Traditionally, the Jewish festival of lights doesn’t involve presents. But like Christmas, Hanukkah too is increasingly commercialized, and there is already color-coded gift wrap in the US.

Purim Costume

This costume of the first Israeli astronaut, Ilan Ramon, should have been a top seller for Purim. But then a tragic accident occurred.


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