Daniel Cohen, ’76, a six-time Emmy Award winner, has produced live and corporate television shows and documentary films. Thirty-five years after his graduation, Cohen is returning to Ithaca College to screen his latest film, “An Article of Hope.” The film follows space shuttle Columbia, Col. Ilan Ramon — Israel’s first astronaut — and a Torah scroll that was smuggled into a concentration camp during the Holocaust.
“An Article of Hope” will be shown today at 5 p.m. in the Park Auditorium.
Contributing writer Tony Azzara spoke with Cohen about the film and the methodology behind it.
Tony Azzara: What was your inspiration in producing “An Article of Hope”?
Daniel Cohen: Ever since I was a little boy, I’ve always been a space geek. I love space exploration. So when Columbia happened, I was very tuned in and followed what I could about it. Two weeks later, I read an article in The Washington Post about the scroll that Ilan Ramon carried with him. I read the story and thought, “Wow, what a powerful new way to tell the Holocaust story to a new generation.” It’s important to keep telling the story so that we never forget. As I got deeper, I discovered it was much more than a Holocaust story, and it has evolved into what it has become.
The film is actually about Ilan Ramon, the first astronaut from Israel, who was killed on the Columbia. It links to the Holocaust because there was a Holocaust survivor from Bergen-Belsen. There was a rabbi who smuggled a torah into the camp. The rabbi threw “Yoya,” who would one day grow up to be a physicist, a bat mitzvah. Since the rabbi didn’t think he was going to make it out of Bergen-Belsen alive, the Rabbi gave Yoya the torah for his bat mitzvah. Sixty years later, Yoya tells Ilan Ramon, who thinks about it and asks Yoya to take the torah with him in order to take the Torah from the depths of hell to the heights of space. Our film traces the journey of the scroll from Bergen-Belsen to Columbia, but is mostly about the crew — the most diverse group of astronauts to fly in space. It’s all about celebrating diversity with an article of hope from a horrific attempt to stamp out diversity.
TA: What is your new film’s objective?
DC: We made the film for television. We’re hoping it’ll be on PBS early next year. The purpose for making the film was to tell a very powerful story of the journey of the human spirit, which has many layers woven through this dramatic story involving the holocaust.
TA: What do you hope students take away from the screening?
DC: The important message is this powerful story of the journey of the human spirit, and it’s all interwoven by a twist of fate — the powerful story of the scroll. “An Article of Hope” represents different things to each character. It all represents the importance of diversity, especially today. It’s an important lesson for all of us.