Albert Einstein was a founder of Hebrew University and donated his personal papers to the University in 1952. A unique exhibition on the life and work of Albert Einstein is drawing thousands of visitors to the American Museum of Natural History in New York, in a special collaborative effort between Hebrew University and the world-renowned museum.
The exhibit not only explains and illustrates Einstein’s brilliant theories and his contributions to the worlds of science and mathematics, but introduces visitors to Einstein as a historical figure and as a human being. The wild-haired genius was not only a scientist, but a believer in world peace, an enemy of racism and anti-Semitism, and a fervent Zionist who lobbied for creating the State of Israel and was a founder of the Hebrew University.
The exhibit is the largest collection ever displayed on the life and works of Einstein, according to Hebrew University spokesman Jerry Barach. Most of the items have never been out of the archives and shown to the public, Barach said.
Hebrew University was one of Einstein’s passions. Einstein’s first visit to the United States in 1921 was a fundraising tour in support of the University. In his one visit to what was then Palestine in 1923, he gave the first scientific lecture at Hebrew University, on the site where the school was to open two years later.
Einstein dreamed of a Jewish homeland that would be a spiritual and cultural center for his people, and a top-drawer educational system was part of that dream. When the university opened in April, 1925, Einstein wrote “The Mission of Our University” describing a university as “a place where the universality of the human spirit manifests itself.”
In an interview in the New York Times that month, Einstein said, “I know of no public event that has given me such pleasure as the proposal to establish a Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The traditional respect for knowledge that Jews have maintained intact through so many centuries of severe hardship has made it particularly painful for us to see so many talented sons of the Jewish people cut off from higher education.”
In subsequent years, his contact with growing anti-Semitism in his native Germany, and witnessing the searing brutality of the Holocaust as the highest-profile refugee in the United States, further cemented his ties to Israel and the Jewish people.
Sealing his affection and attachment to the premier Israeli university, he bequeathed his entire literary estate and his personal papers in 1952. The Einstein Archives are housed in the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, which has grown into an institution of 1,300 faculty and about 24,000 students.
The exhibit, titled “Einstein,” will travel to the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles in 2004 and will be displayed at Hebrew University in 2005.
The multifaceted exhibit includes papers and correspondence detailing Einstein’s major scientific discoveries, aspects of his private life, political activities, and cultural contributions and discusses his Jewish identity.
Documents on display include a handwritten 1916 version of the Theory of Relativity, his 1921 Nobel Prize, and Einstein’s 1939 letter to President Roosevelt, in which he warns that the Nazis might be working to create nuclear weapons.