Yeshiva College Courts Einstein
In October 1933 Einstein took up his position as one of the founding members of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, which enables its faculty to devote all their time to research. He knew he would not be going back to Germany, but he did not know that Princeton and the Institute would serve as his home base for his remaining 22 years. Immediately he was besieged, even more than in Germany, by requests for speeches, statements of support, commercial endorsements, and answers to scientific and nonscientific questions. In this climate, though generous with his time and money, Einstein had to be extremely selective about the individuals and the causes he agreed to help. Yeshiva College, a fledgling facing the Depression, did not find it easy to earn his friendship. Fortunately, the institution and its representatives could legitimately appeal to him on many grounds: support for education in general, education in the sciences, education for Jews, and Zionism. Within a year, Einstein came to see he College as fostering both the spiritual and moral roots of Judaism and the secular, contemporary education of Jewish students as the scientists, mathematicians, and professionals of the future.
In April 1929, Einstein had received a famous telegram from New York City Rabbi Herbert S. Goldstein: “Do you believe in God? Stop. Answer paid 50 words." To which Einstein replied, "I believe in Spinoza's God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fates and actions of human beings." At that point, Einstein almost certainly did not know about Yeshiva College, with which Rabbi Goldstein was affiliated.
Einstein probably first learned of Yeshiva College in November 1933 when Mendel Gottesman sent him a Yeshiva Endowment Foundation yearbook just one month after Einstein moved to Princeton and just five months after Yeshiva College had graduated its first full class. On November 21,1933, Einstein thanked Gottesman and expressed his conviction that “the Yeshiva College is of great importance for the preservation of the Jewish tradition and for the deeper spiritualization of the Jewish youth in general." On December 1„ "elated ...over the wise and friendly words of Dr. Einstein," Yeshiva College President Bernard Revel informed Gottesman, "We are sending Dr. Einstein a copy of all the issues of Scripta Mathematica; and we hope that, as he learns more of Yeshiva College and is unique work, we may more fully win his friendship and cooperation."
Having originally planned to invite Einstein to a fundraising dinner in 1934, Revel instead invited him to the 1934 Commencement on June 16. Einstein declined, but he did provide a strong statement of support for the College, this time mostly on the basis of its secular education of Jewish students. To accommodate Einstein's schedule, the College invited him once again to receive an honorary degree, this time on October 8 at the Opening Exercises for the new academic year. On April 27 Einstein accepted the invitation in principle in a letter to Herman Bernstein, chair of the Einstein Reception Committee. On April 30, just 3 days later, Einstein asked Revel to consider Arnold Lowan, a Columbia Ph.D. candidate and a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study, for a position teaching physics or math at Yeshiva College. Soon Lowan was hired, and he taught at Yeshiva College for decades. Overall, the various strands of the relationship between Einstein and Yeshiva College, based on mutual interests, ere rapidly growing not only more numerous but stronger as well.