My topic is the influence of Judaism on the life of Albert Einstein. First I will introduce you to Albert Einstein’s life. Albert Einstein was born in Ulm, Germany on March 14, 1879. His parents were Hermann Einstein and Pauline Einstein. He was raised as a secular Jew. From ages 5 to 8 Albert Einstein was actually sent to a catholic school. After that he attended a public school that was later named after him. A friend of Albert’s family named Max Talmud gave the young Albert many science, mathematical, and philosophy books. These books allowed him to learn about very advanced ideas at a very young age. This lead Albert Einstein to grow up and become a theoretical physicist who would write many research papers that greatly influenced the future of science. In the year 1908, Albert created the world famous theory of relativity, the equation “E=mc2”. Albert Einstein had two wives in his life, Mileva Maric and Elsa Einstein. He had two children with Mileva: Hans and Eduard Einstein. In 1921, Albert Einstein won the Nobel Prize in Physics. In 1933, he moved to Princeton, New Jersey and resided there as a professor at the institute of Advanced Technology for the rest of his life. Albert Einstein died April 18, 1955.
The reason I picked Albert Einstein is because he is a distant relative of mine. He shares a great grandfather with my great great grandfather, Sigmund Einstein. The last name Einstein has been in my family for long time, and my grandmother’s maiden name was Einstein, so it’s easily seen in my family tree.
Albert Einstein was greatly influenced by his Jewish heritage. He lived in Germany during the Third Reich, which was also known as Nazi Germany with Adolf Hitler as chancellor. The Nazi party was very focused around racism and anti-Semitism. In early 1933, when Albert Einstein was 54, the Nazi party began stripping the Jewish people of their rights. This would in a few years lead to the Nuremburg laws, which took nearly all rights from the Jews including their citizenship, which soon lead to the Holocaust.
In early 1933, Albert Einstein was on a trip to America for two months. While there, Adolf Hitler had risen to power. Albert Einstein then rode a ship back to Europe that would bring him to Belgium. While on that ship, the Nazis had declared that Jews could no longer hold official positions, including being a professor. The Nazis had also raided his house. As soon as Albert Einstein arrived in Belgium, he went to a German consulate, handed in his passport, and formally renounced his German citizenship. I think that this decision was another sign of his great intelligence.
He then made a speech at the Royal Albert Hall in London, England on October 3rd, 1933. In his speech he talked about how everyone’s individual freedom is at stake. After he made this speech the audience cheered wildly. Just four days later, Albert Einstein made a trip to Princeton, New Jersey. This was planned to be only a six-month trip, but he instead never returned to Europe.
At first, his ideas were that the allies should approach everything in a diplomatic way because he was a pacifist. His Judaism influenced his pacifism. Albert Einstein had even said, “To be a Jew means to bear a serious responsibility not only to his own community, but toward humanity.” I believe this largely resembles the thoughts that we hear at I.L Peretz learn about Tikun Olum, or repairing the world. Soon however he decided that that nonviolence would not work, because the crimes against humanity itself being done by the Nazis were too horrible. He decided that military means was the only effective way to help. Because of the fear Einstein felt towards the possible development of nuclear bombs in Germany, Albert Einstein urged president Franklin Roosevelt to begin exploring the creation of nuclear weapons, which prompted the Manhattan Project. I agree with Einstein that pacifism is best, but aggression is sometimes necessary.
Under the suggestion of Albert Einstein, the people of the United States added a branch to the European International Relief Association. This branch is called the International Rescue Committee and worked to relieve those being targeted by the Nazis. It still exists today and still works to relieve those that are in the middle of a crisis. Examples of this work include giving people health care, water, food, schools, and teachers. I find it very cool that the organization that Einstein helped to create still exists today.
After World War Two, Albert Einstein supported the creation of a national Jewish homeland. He supported the idea of Zionism, but instead of taking the lands from the Palestinians he wanted to create a mixed country where both the Palestinians and the Jews could co-exist. He stated, “The state idea is not according to my heart. I cannot understand why it is needed. It is connected with many difficulties and narrow-mindedness. I believe it is bad.” The United Nations, however, did not follow his advice and preceded to create Israel as a Jewish homeland, forcing the Palestinians to be come refugees. When President Harry Truman recognized Israel in May 1948 Albert Einstein, although not getting exactly what he wanted, declared it, “The fulfillment of our, meaning the Jews, dreams.” When the first president of Israel died in 1952, Einstein was asked to be the next president of the country. When offered, he replied with, "I am deeply moved by the offer from our State of Israel, and at once saddened and ashamed that I cannot accept it.”
As I stated earlier, Albert Einstein was raised as a secular Jew. As he grew he read many scientific books and came to the realization that the stories in the bible simply could not be true. In my experiences, I have also come to the decision that the stories in the bible cannot be true. He decided that the idea of a personal god was wrong. He stated that, "The idea of a personal God is quite alien to me and seems even naïve." He also stated, “I believe that we have to content ourselves with our imperfect knowledge and understanding and treat values and moral obligations as a purely human problem.” He still, however didn’t not call himself Atheist and considered himself agnostic. This means that while he didn’t believe in a personal god, he either believed or didn’t disbelieve in the existence of a deity or deities. This meant that he still believed in at least some aspects of religion.
Through the process of writing this speech, I learned a lot about this distant relative of mine. It really surprised me when I learned he was a non-religious Jew, just like I am. I also appreciated hearing about his effort to save people during World War Two and the Holocaust. After writing this paper, I feel a little bit closer to him.