EINSTEIN, Albert (1879-1955). An important series of 5 autograph letters signed, 17 letters signed (2 with autograph postscripts), an autograph note signed and a letter in a secretarial hand to Adolph (Abraham) Fraenkel, Berlin, Caputh, Pasadena, Le Coq sur Mer, Oxford, Watch Hill, Princeton, Saranac Lake, Long Island and n.p. (two), 25 October 1928 - April 1954 (incompletely dated) and n.d. (one), in German, one letter on verso of a printed facsimile of a birthday poem by Einstein for 1929, altogether 4 pages, 4to, and one page, 8vo, in autograph, 16½ pages, 4to, typewritten, and 1½ pages, 4to, in a secretarial hand (light wear to six letters; letters of 16.7.1931 and 23.4.1933 trimmed; stains to letter of 5.11.1951); [with] 4 typed copies of letters by Einstein, and 5 other typed copies and drafts.
A frank and typically trenchant correspondence with a fellow scientist chronicling Einstein's involvement with the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, at its most intense in the early 1930s, and expressing broader views of Judaism, the possibilities of a Jewish state in Palestine, the German situation in the 1930s and the abilities of fellow scientists. Einstein asks Fraenkel, who in 1929 has newly taken up a position at the Hebrew University, for 'a frank critique of the whole situation', in particular of the leading personalities: the information only reinforces Einstein's opposition in particular to the University's head, Judah Magnes. His criticisms originate with an feeling that 'the administration, in particular as to their choice of people, don't seem conscientious enough': a criticism he reinforces in January 1931 to the extent that 'nothing good can come out of the University under the present circumstances, particularly because the American donors do not see the flaws of the present organisation'. Einstein's suggested solution is to find a 'really outstanding personality' to replace Magnes: from June 1931 the candidate for this role is Chaim Weizmann, and the most active period of the correspondence, up to summer 1933, is concerned with assessments of Weizmann's character and his effect on, and relations with, the despised Judah Magnes. Einstein constantly expresses frustration at the situation: 'Again and again people try to use me on behalf of the Jerusalem University. But I have - even publicly - declared that I want to have nothing to do with the matter, as long as Magnes is at the head of it' - and he is driven to speculate on the possibility of 'a refugee university abroad (England?)' to replace his ideals for the Jerusalem University. There is a cooling of the tone of the letters after Einstein accuses Fraenkel himself of some chicanery ('a method of rotten compromises'), and he concludes that he can 'no longer believe in the honest desire of the main participants'; but the correspondence continues in a friendly tone for some twenty years.
The letters also contain important reflections on Judaism - 'the individualistic tradition of our people condemns us always to depend on foreign organisations with whom we are never at one' - and on the prospects in Palestine of an 'acceptable modus vivendi with the Arabs. I have no illusions that the problem is not a serious one ... one can no longer think of attaining a Jewish majority in Palestine'. A concern throughout the letters is to find posts for German Jewish scientists ('one would wish to save from destruction everyone whom one can recommend with a good conscience'): the most interesting of Einstein's commendations is of Theodor Kaluza, whose work he had used as a point of departure in his early work on a unified field theory: Einstein outlines Kaluza's brilliant advance in suggesting a unified conception of gravitation and electricity, 'so that he regarded the world as five-dimensional, but in such a way that all field-magnitudes do not vary in the fifth dimension' - an idea whose proof Einstein cannot predict, but whose genius he finds undeniable.
Einstein's interest in a Hebrew University in Jerusalem was inspired by Chaim Weizmann (the future president of Israel), who persuaded him to join a fundraising tour in the USA in 1921. Einstein was at first very enthusiastic, giving the University's inaugural address on Mount Scopus in 1923, and taking his place on the University's academic council. It was with the formation in 1928 of a governing board, under the control of Judah Magnes, a former New York rabbi, that Einstein's attitude to the project began to change: he perceived Magnes's championing of the interests of American benefactors as detrimental to academic standards, with academic posts being reserved for scions of influential American Jewish families, and felt this as a betrayal of his own vision of an academic powerhouse which could give refuge to Jewish academics forced out of Germany. Einstein's private criticisms of the turn of events were bitter ('a complete pigsty') and he resigned from the board in 1928 - though Weizmann persuaded him not to make the news public until 1933 (the correspondence contains pointed comments on both decisions). The chicanery of the University administration was to turn him against Weizmann, whom he described in August 1933 as 'an intelligent and charming man, but unfortunately a complete liar' (Weizmann in turn viewed Einstein's antics as those of 'a prima donna who is beginning to lose her voice'). The Hebrew University never ceased to arouse Einstein's passionate interest; it was to be the recipient of his manuscripts after his death. (33)