A Jewish Way Tribute: Albert Einstein 1879 – 1955



His personal simplicity made him one of the most popular men in history. He was a passionate violinist with pacifist views and was a big supporter of the civil rights movement.

While living in Germany, motivated to take a stand against anti-Semitism he became a strong supporter of the pioneer Zionist movement of the beginning of the 20th century and was among the founders of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem – highly involved in raising funds for its establishment and also in its academic aspects -. In 1923, he visited Mount Scopus (British mandate of Palestine) where he gave the first scientifc lecture of the University.

In 1952 after his friend, then president of Israel Chaim Weizmann passed, he was nominated to be his successor, a position he did decline, saying, “I am deeply moved by the o er from our State of Israel, and at once saddened and ashamed that I cannot accept it.”

Before his death, believing that his work would nd a stable, secure, and permanent home in Israel, he willed his literary estate and all personal papers to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The Einstein Archives are located on the Edmond J. Safra Campus, where all his scientific and non-scientific writings, including the famous E mc2 formula; correspondence; books from his library at Princeton; and photographs can be found.



Albert Einstein was born in Ulm, Germany in 1879, a German citizen from birth. As a child, Einstein showed some difficulties in learning and development. He began to speak at age four. His performance in school was also not outstanding, as he struggled to cope with the rigid discipline. However, he developed a deep interest in science, influenced by his uncle.

At age 17, he moved with his parents to Italy and Switzerland. His interest in science led him to study at the Polytechnic of Zurich, Switzerland. He then renounced his German citizenship, becoming a Swiss citizen, and he began to work as an assistant in the Swiss Patent o ce in 1901. His first theoretical paper, one on the capillary forces of a straw, was published, and by 1905 he was awarded his doctorate by the University of Zurich.

He later met and fell in love with Mileva Maric, a Hungarian college classmate. They married in 1903 and had three children.


905 was considered his “miracle year.” He published four research papers that were fundamental in physics sciences in the first he e plained the photoelectric effect, in the second he e plained a physical phenomenon called the Brownian Movement, but the other two were the ones absolutely revolutionary: the Work is known as “Special Theory of Relativity” and a theory complementing the previous one.

Later in 1915, known as General Theory of Relativity, he expanded his views on the nature of light, time and space, including gravitational influence which constituted the greatest contribution to physics since the days of Newton. His work on relativity made him world-famous when he concluded that the trajectory of light arriving on Earth from a star would be bent by the gravity of the Sun.

In 1919, he divorced from Mileva Maric. This same year a solar eclipse proves Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity.

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle, the other is as though everything is a miracle.”

LEFT: Einstein Arriving to New York City Next to his wife Elsa and Zionist leaders, 1921. RIGHT:Albert Einstein archives / U Press Receiving Nobel Price, 1921.

In 1921, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics thanks to his research on the photoelectric e ect, and not because of his theories of relativity. He became very famous. Wherever he went, he was greeted like a head of state, with crowds saluting his arrival. He began to lecture worldwide and traveled to destinations such as Singapore, Sri Lanka, and Japan, meeting with many humanists and humanitarian luminaries including Bengali writer and artist Rabindranath Tagore.

He married his cousin Elsa, and supporting the zionist cause, in 1921 they traveled to New York with Zionist leaders, including future President of Israel Chaim Weizmann. In 1923 he visited the University, joining the Board of Governors and its Academic Council.

In 1925, he visits various countries in South America, and around 1927 he begins to develop the foundation of quantum mechanics with Niels Bohr. Between 1930 and 1933 he makes several visits to the SA, delivering lectures at universities.

In 1933, Adolf Hitler had just become Chancellor in Germany and Einstein learned that his name was on a Nazi Blacklist. He renounced again to his German citizenship and settled in the United States where he worked at Princeton University, continuing to expand his theories.

In 1936 his wife Elsa passed away, and in 1940 he became a US citizen, retaining his Swiss citizenship.

A critic of racism and a pacifist, he wrote to President T. Roosevelt urging him to press ahead with construction of a nuclear bomb to ensure the Germans did not get to it first, but later he said this letter was his life’s biggest regret because nuclear weapons had such fierce capacity for destruction. He later fought for their abolition and in 1947, he worked for the cause of disarmament.


He spent his last years at Princeton, working on his theories and the quantum mechanics eld, and expanding his mathematical knowledge to develop those ideas.
He served as an activist for peace, and as an adviser for the creation of the state of Israel. In 1952, after his friend Chaim Weizmann passed, then president of Israel, he was nominated to be his successor, a position he declined.

Before his death, he willed his literary estate and all personal papers to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

On April 18, 1955, as a result of the rupture of an aneurysm, he died at the Princeton Hospital at age of 76 .


Article Published in JW Magazine Winter 2017

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