Einstein and Yeshiva College Help Jewish Refugees
March 15, 1939, Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia despite assurances made six months earlier in Munich that the Sudetenland would satisfy his hunger for territory. On March 21, in a major CBS radio broadcast, Einstein urged Jews and “all who believe in humanity and justice” to do everything possible to help the refugees. Since before he moved to America in October of 1933, Einstein had been helping individuals and groups find new homes outside Germany. But his current anxiety focused on an increasingly overwhelming flood refugees, numbering in the hundreds of thousands by 1939. His main call in the broadcast as to his fellow Jews to support “the Joint Distribution Committee and the United Palestine Appeal(,) ...the foremost American agencies providing for rescuing Jews from distress and need in Central and Eastern Europe." He stressed not only the needs of the refugees but also the contributions they could make to "economic and cultural” efforts in their new homes. As the address makes clear, Einstein's belief in Zionism and the need for Jewish settlement in Palestine was only growing stronger.
Revel heard and was moved by Einstein's appeal, which included two major themes he himself had been developing in his Commencement addresses and other major speeches since 1933: the moral, spiritual, and Biblical roots of the Jewish people and the threat posed by Germany to both Jewish and civilized values. Also, Einstein's speech overlapped with Yeshiva College's own efforts on half of refugees, especially students from European yeshivas. On March 23, Bevel wrote to praise Einstein for his talk and to ask him for a statement of support in connection with an April 2 dinner to raise money for student refugees at Yeshiva College. On March 30, Einstein provided a statement in which he emphasized the inner strength of students imbued with the Jewish tradition during times of "outward oppression” such as the present. This statement is reminiscent of his original 1933 letter to Gottesman in that he emphasizes the religious rather than the secular dimension of Yeshiva College.