Einstein, Brandeis, and Zionism
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Einstein, Brandeis, and Zionism

In August, we ran an article about Fred Jerome’s book “Einstein on Israel and Zionism.” Our reviewer, Ralph Seliger, noted that “Jerome contends that it’s a ‘myth’ that Einstein was a Zionist or that he really supported the State of Israel.” The review provided ample evidence to the contrary, and a fascinating article in the December issue of The Atlantic bears this out.

Called “How Einstein Divided America’s Jews,” and by the estimable Walter Isaacson, it provides fresh glimpses into what might be called an inter-Zionist conflict – between the comfortable assimilated Americans and the prescient Europeans.

The adulated physicist traveled to the United States with Chaim Weizmann, also a scientist – a biochemist. They pair were out to raise money for settlement in then Palestine and also to build a university in Jerusalem. But they were rebuffed by none other than Louis Brandeis, the first Jewish justice on the Supreme Court and the honorary president of the Zionist Organization of America, and his coterie.

Isaacson writes, “His crowd tended to look down on unrefined and unassimilated Jews from Russia and eastern Europe,” the ones who were most passionate about establishing a Jewish state. Brandeis also slandered them in a letter to his brother: “The Zionist [clash] was inevitable. It was one resulting from differences in standards. The Easterners – like many Russian Jews in this country – don’t know what honesty is & we simply won’t entrust our money to them.”

As for Einstein’s Zionism, Isaacson quotes from a letter written right after his American trip: “Zionism really offers a new Jewish ideal that can give the Jewish people joy in its own existence again.”

Highly recommended. Go to www.theatlantic.com/doc/200912/isaacson-einstein.

RKB

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