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100 years ago this month, Albert Einstein took his one and only trip to Israel. It left quite an impression.
After Albert Einstein died in 1955, Israeli officials came to clean out his office at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. Following the scientist’s last will and testament, they collected tens of thousands of items from there and his home at 112 Mercer Street: research notes, correspondence, photographs, medals (yes, including the Nobel), and other ephemera. They were placed into big wooden crates, loaded onto a truck, then a plane, and then a van until they reached Jerusalem. There were police escorts along the way.
Archival home: Einstein, an ardent Zionist, had bequeathed his archives to Hebrew University, which I’ve visited several times in researching my upcoming book about the modern relevance of Einstein. I perused piles of his fan mail. I saw a replica of the 46 pages of notes he made in 1916 working out the general theory of relativity, complete with a grease stain on page 45 (they keep the original locked up). And I chatted with the curators, who shared terrific tales of the scientist, including Einstein’s close friendship with Charlie Chaplin.
Albert Einstein in Tel Aviv. (Bitmuna, Herzliya Hebrew Gymnasium archives)
Supporting science: Einstein’s relationship to Hebrew U. had begun decades before, when Chaim Weizmann, a fellow scientist, asked him to join a two-month tour to help raise money to build the campus. That spring, 1921 trip was Einstein’s first to the United States. His love for Israel — then called Palestine and under British rule — was solidified during his 1923 trip, from Feb. 2 to Feb. 14. “Einstein lent the prestige mondial of his great name, and in fact gave his heart, to the movement which created the state of Israel,” wrote Isaiah Berlin, a British philosopher.
On the ground: During the trip, Einstein visited the Western Wall, schools in Tel Aviv and Haifa, a kibbutz, Arab villages and Lake Kinneret. Perhaps the highlight was his visit to Mt. Scopus, where the university would open two years later. He spoke a few lines in Hebrew then expressed regret “that I am incapable of delivering my lecture in the tongue of the people.” The trip was covered breathlessly by the local press.
Hail to the chief: Weizmann, of course, became Israel’s first president. When he died in 1952, Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion asked Einstein to replace him. Einstein politely declined but said he was “deeply moved” by the offer, especially considering “my relationship to the Jewish people became my strongest human tie.”
Our partners at Haaretz took a look back at Einstein’s historic visit on its centennial.
Read their story, and sign up here to get Haaretz’s free Daily Brief delivered to your inbox.
Related: World’s largest Einstein museum to open in Israel
Miriam Udel (right) and Rep. Esther Panitch in the Georgia House of Representatives. (Georgia House Media Services)
A female Orthodox rabbi gave the opening prayer at a state legislature: Miriam Udel, who is also a professor of Yiddish literature at Emory University, was Chaplain of the Day at the Georgia House of Representatives last Wednesday. In her speech, Udel quoted a Talmudic rabbi on why the Jewish people were redeemed from Egypt: “Like so many good things in this world, it came down to the efforts of women.” Watch her speech ➤
Jewish sleep-away camp nostalgia comes to comics: Eric Glickman’s graphic novel Camp Pock-A-Wocknee and the Dyn-O-Mite Summer of ‘77 channels the raunchy glory of eight unsupervised weeks so many young Jews spend the school year dreaming about. It’s funny and sweet at its core, but be warned — despite its young protagonists, this book is definitely not for kids. Read the story ➤
But wait, there’s more…
- U.S. Rep. Jerry Nadler, the New York Democrat and dean of congress’ informal Jewish Caucus, warned on Sunday that the U.S.-Israel alliance “will be endangered” if the new Israeli government passes legislation curbing the independence of the judiciary.
- Meanwhile, two U.S. senators introduced legislation to honor the “forgotten heroes” of the Holocaust. One of the 60 diplomats on the list is Hiram Bingham, a vice consul at the U.S. embassy in France who saved 2,500 World War II refugees – including Hannah Arendt, Max Ernst and Marc Chagall.
- A new report applauds efforts in the Arab world to fight antisemitism. Egypt, in particular, has taken active steps to embrace the history of its Jewish community — which has dwindled from some 80,000 in 1948 to perhaps 100 today.
- Take our weekly news quiz to see how closely you’ve been following the Jewish headlines.
Billy Crystal at the 65th Grammy Awards Sunday night. (Getty)
Our culture reporter, PJ Grisar, saw these Jewish tidbits in last night’s ceremony:
- Winning her 32nd Grammy (for her album Renaissance), Beyoncé became the artist with the most awards of all time — displacing the Hungarian-British (and Jewish) conductor Georg Solti, who won 31.
- Trevor Noah pretended to call his (Jewish) mother to assure her that it wasn’t the real devil onstage during Sam Smith and Kim Petras’ performance of “Unholy.”
- Introducing Stevie Wonder, Billy Crystal paid tribute to his uncle Milt Gabler, founder of Commodore Records. Crystal also proudly reported that he once got to shake the hand of Vladimir Horowitz. “Google him,” he urged those who were unfamiliar with Horowitz, a classical pianist.
- The night went off without any Kanye jokes. But in a closing number, a performance of DJ Khaled’s “God Did,” Jay-Z rapped: “Sometimes I feel like Farrakhan talking to Mike Wallace/I think y’all should keep quiet,” a reference to the Jewish TV journalist’s 1994 interview with the antisemitic Nation of Islam leader.
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WHAT ELSE YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY
A man reacts as people search for survivors through the rubble this morning in Turkey. (Getty)
🌍 Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would send Israeli rescue teams to Turkey after a powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit there overnight. A second 7.5 quake occurred hours later. More than 1,600 deaths were reported in Turkey’s south and the north of neighboring Syria, a toll that is expected to rise. The quake was felt more than 500 miles away in Israel, where geologists say the country is due for its own massive quake, and that a whole host of structures built prior to the mid-1980s, including many schools and hospitals, will not survive it (New York Times, Times of Israel, Haaretz)
🇵🇸 At least five Palestinian militants were killed early Monday when they exchanged fire with Israeli forces during a raid near the city of Jericho in the occupied West Bank. The Israel Defense Forces said troops were there to apprehend suspects involved in a shooting attack on a nearby restaurant last week. (Haaretz)
🏀 The Brooklyn Nets traded Kyrie Irving, the NBA star who was suspended in November for sharing a link to an antisemitic movie, to the Dallas Mavericks, a team owned by Mark Cuban, a Jewish billionaire. (ESPN, JTA)
💰 The Justice Department indicted a Florida woman, Peaches Stergo, in a years-long scheme to defraud an 87-year-old Holocaust survivor of his life savings, more than $2.8 million. Prosecutors say that Stergo forged documents and impersonated a “bank employee in exchange for a life of fancy trips, Rolex watches, and luxury purchases.” (Justice.gov)
🇺🇸 A prospective aide has accused Rep. George Santos of ethics violations and sexual harassment. The aide, who briefly worked for Santos until his job offer was rescinded last week, said the congressman asked him on Jan. 25 if he was on a popular gay dating app, then invited him to karaoke and touched his groin. He said he had reported the incident to the Capitol Police. Santos’ lawyer declined to comment on the allegations. (New York Times)
🥄 Israel’s new heritage minister has ordered officials to examine the legality of the U.S. government’s repatriation of a 2,700-year-old ivory spoon to the Palestinians in January, and says Israel should annex archaeological sites in the occupied West Bank. The artifact was seized in late 2021 by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office as part of a deal with the New York billionaire Michael Steinhardt. (AP)
📚 Inna Grade, the widow of the Yiddish writer Chaim Grade and a fierce guardian of his literary legacy, often called the Forward to complain, especially when one of our stories referred kindly to Isaac Bashevis Singer, the Nobel laureate whom she called a “blasphemous buffoon.” The couple’s personal papers will become publicly accessible online this week. (New York Jewish Week)
Shiva calls ➤ Solomon Perel, a German Jew who posed as a member of the Hitler Youth to survive World War II, died at 97. His story was dramatized in the 1990 film Europa Europa … Shevah Weiss, another Holocaust survivor, who served in the Knesset and as an Israeli ambassador to Poland, died at 87 … Fred Terna, an artist who tried to exorcize the psychological trauma of his imprisonment in four Nazi concentration and labor camps with paintings that depicted fire, ashes and chimneys, died at 99.
What else we’re reading ➤ Talya Zax, the Forward’s innovation editor, has a new piece in The Atlantic on Dorothy L. Sayers, the great (and, yes, possibly antisemitic) British mystery writer who was, as Talya put it, “preoccupied with the question of how, once you realize you will likely never understand those around you, you might still live a meaningful life.”
On this day in history (1952): Queen Elizabeth II succeeded her father, King George VI, to the throne, beginning the longest reign of any British monarch. Over the next 70 years, as Forward contributor Benjamin Ivry wrote in a reflection for her platinum jubilee, the Queen showed little interest in Jewish history or culture — with one odd exception. In 1948, she hired a mohel, Dr. Jacob Snowman, to circumcise her son and “mensch for all seasons,” the future King Charles.
On the Hebrew calendar, it’s Tu B’Shvat, perhaps Judaism’s most underrated holiday.
In honor of National Frozen Yogurt Day, check out this recipe for a halva-inspired version.
Jennifer Andreacchi, left, and Han Smith are the first queer Jewish couple to marry in Scotland. (Fern Photography)
Han Smith and Jennifer Andreacchi recently made international news for becoming the first queer couple to have a Jewish wedding in Scotland. But at the time they met, they had never been to Scotland, and they didn’t yet identify as queer — or Jewish. Read the story ➤
Thanks to PJ Grisar, Jacob Kornbluh, Rebecca Salzhauer and Talya Zax for contributing to today’s newsletter. You can reach the “Forwarding” team at [email protected].