T H E J E W I S H QU E S T I O N 2 3 5
political Zionists. Einstein knew nothing of the dispute between the “Americans” and the
“Europeans” when he set out for
but he had already most definitely taken to
heart the centrality of Palestine as a universal symbol of Jewish cultural unity beyond its
function as a site of Jewish settlement. As he put it, a Jewish lack of self-worth might “best
be made good by Jews as a community constructing a cultural artifact [Palestine] which
they can regard with joy and
In convincing Einstein of the contribution that he
might make to an American fund-raising tour, the international Zionists understood the
symbolic importance of a German Jew appealing in the name of an incontestable goal above
the heads of the American leadership to the great majority of American Jews, who were of
East European origin.
Much has been written about Einstein’s varying opinions of America after his trip there in
April and May 1921—some positive, some negative. One version of his views is presented
in Appendix C, a modified version in Appendix E, yet another in Doc. 61. Numerous other
interviews and accounts fill the literature and need no further comment
Equal at-
tention has been directed to the impact of his presence on the American
What is of-
ten overlooked, however, is that the American visit represented an important watershed in
Einstein’s understanding of his role as an international figure. Earlier sojourns in the Neth-
erlands, Austria, Italy, and the Scandinavian countries were arranged solely as vehicles for
presentation of his finalized general theory of relativity and in his capacity as spokesman
for German or international science. The American visit he undertook as a representative
of the Jewish people and for a cause—the Hebrew University—whose realization lay in the
future. The satisfaction that he derived from the trip was due to a recognition of the fact that
he could instrumentalize his worldwide fame toward the concrete achievement of a social
goal, about which he had developed an intellectual passion and an emotional commitment.
[61]Blumenfeld had considered it impossible that “our American rivals can make an impression on
him with their views” (“unsere amerikanische Gegner mit ihren Anschauungen auf ihn Eindruck ma-
chen können.” Kurt Blumenfeld to Chaim Weizmann, 15 March 1921, in Blumenfeld 1976, p. 66).
[62]“am besten dadurch behoben werden, daß die Juden als Gesamtheit ein Kulturwerk errichten,
auf das sie mit Freude und Stolz blicken können”; Vossische Zeitung, 27 March 1921, Morning
Edition, supplement 1, p. 1. This is compatible with the vision of Zionists such as Robert Weltsch
(1891–1982), editor of the German Zionist newspaper, the Jüdische Rundschau, who argued that Zi-
onism was “only in a limited sense an emigration movement,” and more “a movement based on a
world view that stood up for a national Jewish center in order to give the Jews an identity.” Cited in
Poppel 1977, p. 92.
[63]References to and discussions of some of these accounts are provided in Missner 1985.
[64]Weizmann considered the American tour a qualified success: “On the whole the response of
American Jewry was remarkably good, considering their unpreparedness . . . The work was vigorous-
ly continued after our departure, and the first year’s income was about four times the five hundred
thousand dollars which Mr. Brandeis had set as the maximum obtainable from the Jews of America
. . . But we still had nothing near the sum required by the program of the Annual Conference.”
Weizmann, Ch. 1949, pp. 272–273.
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