What does the Space Age mean for the Jews

The space age, whether or not we’re prepared, has arrived. While the focus is on science and technology, the popular conversations seem to avoid considering the impact this will have on culture and society. Jewish communities have long been accustomed to dramatic social change – we make holidays out of them. However, we don’t know what the space age will bring. While many thinkers have obsessed on minutiae of halacha off of earth, no one is asking – What does this mean for the Jews? For Jewish civilization?

Launch-filled summer in a year of space stories

There were nearly 2 dozen rocket launches since the beginning of June. I know because I watched the livestream for most of them with my children. While most watched Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos sub-orbital flights, there were a number of unmanned rockets with all sorts of cargo being launched by many different organizations. If one thing is clear, the space age is back on.

But this summer’s launch schedule isn’t the only part of space headlines this year. In particular 3 space headlines held particular relevance to the international Jewish community.

  1. Orbital Space Hotel to open in late 2020s
    Jewish Tourism is big business. Whether to visit historically Jewish locations or just to travel and nosh during chag, Jews pay money to travel and be Jewish. While the space hotel will be open brand new, it won’t be long until they offer Jewish heritage tours.
  2. “Dubai to open “Space Court” to handle disputes in orbit and off-earth”
    This forward thinking initiative will propel the tiny, rich monarchy into 21st century legal leadership. At the same time of this headline, the Israeli supreme court had to over-rule the religious authority to enforce the inclusion of non-orthodox converts as Jews.
  3. “US Legislator claims wildfires caused by Jewish Space Lasers”
    This hysterical accusation led to lots of late night jokes and funny swag. However strange, the peddling of antisemetic propaganda isn’t new, yet the inclusion of space-based technology brings the entire Jewish people into the space-age.

After the laughter, time for better questions

Following the comments of a “Jewish space laser,” many jews had fun with it. I know folks who got hat pins or shirts sporting the joke. As jews, that’s an appropriate response, humor. Humor in the face of ignorant evil. However, such a response doesn’t really fight the problem.

If the enemies of the Jewish people have tied our fate to outer space, than the only way to beat them is to tell a better story. A better story of what Jewish civilization will become in the space age.

Space Age Jewish Values

Following his inaugural flight, Jeff Bezos shared his vision for a humanity spread among the universe, billions and trillions of humans. If such growth would occur, what will become of our values, our heritages, our humanity?

Frankly, like Jeff, I have a positive outlook for the space age and humanity. And for Jewish Civilization amongst the space age. But Jewish people need to think bigger, longer, and more inclusively about our values. We need to future-proof our values by using the process of midrash to adapt our understanding to the present moment.

Space Midrash: a New Podcast

I believe that as more people go and live in orbit or on other planets that many dominant beliefs will be reshaped. I believe there’s an opportunity for Jewish cultural leadership in the new space age. I believe in an artful, ethical, and inclusive humanity thriving among the cosmos.

My name is Jacob Sager. I was obsessed with space as a kid but my moxie faded following the retirement of the Space Shuttle. However, recent headlines have turned me back on to space and in particular the impact space will have on culture and civilization.

We just need a good story to lead us there. So I’ve created a podcast to probe the intersection of Jewish civilization and the Space Age. It’s called Space Midrash and is available on popular podcast directories as well as the website: SpaceMidrash.Com

The future is ours to create, the space age has arrived. We can’t let peddlers of antisemetism define our story in space. Join me in telling it together.

Published on Times of Israel