Einstein and Yeshiva University
Albert Einstein’s life describes an arc from obscurity to professional Success to worldwide celebrity. A hundred years ago, in 1905, working as a patent clerk, Einstein composed not only his PH.D thesis but five remarkable papers, four of them published that year, which established his fame as a physicist. 1909 brought the first of a series of increasingly distinguished university appointments as his reputation continued to grow. Newspaper reports in 1919 of the experimental confirmation of his theory of relativity marked the beginning of his worldwide popular fame. That fame has lasted until today not only among the well-educated but also within the popular imagination, and his name has entered the English language as a symbol of visionary genius.
Because of Einstein's increasing celebrity and his reputation as a genius, hundreds of individuals, organizations, and causes sought his support. Einstein responded generously but selectively, supporting only those causes he believed in. Overtime he continued to rethink the relevant issues and to monitor each organization to make sure it deserved his continuing support. The major causes to which he lent his name, his efforts, and his words included international scientific and political cooperation, pacifism, international government, armed opposition to Germany’s military aggression, international disarmament , resistance to anti-Semitism and bias against other minorities, civil liberties, relief for the poor and for refugees, Zionism, and education, especially higher education for Jews. Late in his life, as an American, he spoke out for the young civil rights movement and against McCarthyism.
This exhibit highlights Einstein's multifaceted relationship with the 1st and at that point the only American Jewish college for undergraduates, Yeshiva College. The relationship began in 1933, the year Nazi actions against Einstein another German Jews led him to decide never to return to Germany. In spite of occasional friction, it remained strong until the death in 1940 of Dr. Bernard Revel, the 1st president of Yeshiva College. The second president, Dr. Samuel Belkin, renewed the relationship in the early 1950’s, and Einstein agreed in 1953 for the first and only time in his life to lend his name to an institution of higher education: Albert Einstein College of Medicine, the medical school of Yeshiva University. Arguably, among the three universities under Jewish Auspices established in America and Israel before his death, Yeshiva University enjoyed the most enduringly amicable relationship with Einstein.
By bringing to light many previously overlooked and unknown sources, this exhibit makes a contribution to four larger narratives within the life of Einstein, the world famous scientist and humanitarian whom Time magazine named on December 31, 1999 as its one and only “Person of the [Twentieth] Century”:
- The story of Einstein’s varied relationships with his fellow Jews
- The full story of Einstein’s later life in America from 1933 through 1955
- The story of Einstein’s many-sided relationships with education in general and the education of Jews in particular