He squashes rumors that he has abandoned the Brandeis project, writing a noted rabbi, “I feel very grateful indeed for your help in creating interest for the Brandeis University.”
Brandeis University was the first Jewish-sponsored, non-sectarian university in America. The school opened its doors to students in the fall of 1948. However, the establishment of Brandeis did not begin with the cracking of book spines in the classrooms. Before the doors and book covers were opened many great minds came together...
Brandeis University was the first Jewish-sponsored, non-sectarian university in America. The school opened its doors to students in the fall of 1948. However, the establishment of Brandeis did not begin with the cracking of book spines in the classrooms. Before the doors and book covers were opened many great minds came together to make Brandeis University a reality. The committee set up to establish such the university was headed by Dr. Israel Goldstein, and perhaps its foremost recruit was Albert Einstein.
Einstein’s great interest was always in education for Jewish youth, so he was a natural for this project. He had been instrumental in raising money to establish Hebrew University in Jerusalem, which opened its doors in April 1925. In an interview with The New York Times that month, Einstein commented, “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 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.” The fact that college educational opportunities for Jews were limited is illustrated by the fact that the Ivy League universities in the United States limited the number of Jewish admitted.
Middlesex University was a medical school located in Waltham, Massachusetts, that was at the time the only medical school in the United States that did not impose a quota on Jews. The founder, Dr. John Hall Smith, died in 1944. The school was experiencing financial difficulties, and Smith’s will stipulated that the school should go to any group willing to use it to establish a non-sectarian university. Dr. Smith’s son approached Goldstein in January 1946, and for the proposed university to use the Middlesex campus seemed a natural fit to both. Goldstein knew that to gain credibility the new entity needed first-class academic sponsorship. They turned to Professor Albert Einstein to reach a national audience, and as Goldstein wrote, “to secure the endorsement of the greatest academic figure in the world.” By February 5, 1946, Goldstein had recruited Einstein, whose involvement indeed drew national attention to the nascent university. Einstein wrote, “I would do anything in my power to help in the creation and guidance of such an institution. It will always be near to my heart.” Soon university heads around the country, and ministers of all faiths, had endorsed the project.
The founding organization was announced in August 1946 and named the Albert Einstein Foundation for Higher Learning, Inc. The new school would be a Jewish-sponsored secular university open to students and faculty of all races and religions. Initially, the trustees wanted to name the university after Einstein, but he declined. Instead, the school was named Brandeis University after Judge Louis Brandeis., “whose exemplary life as a great American Jew will have, we hope, through such university, a worthy memorial dedicated as a Jewish contribution to the promotion of higher learning in America for the advancement of human culture and science and for the enhancement of under standing, good will and righteous living among men.”
By 1947 the project had moved into a new phase, and was getting down to the detail work of establishing the school and ongoing promotional efforts. Einstein had helped with the macro effort in 1946 but was by 1947 to busy to get into the detail work. His refusal to get working on that level led some to claim, in June 1947, that he had abandoned his support. But this letter shows his strong support remained. Typed letter signed, on his blind embossed Princeton letterhead, March 3, 1947, to Rabbi Joseph Gorfinkle, reaffirming his support for Brandeis University but refusing to become involved in the minutia like writing articles. “I feel very grateful indeed for your help in creating interest for the Brandeis University. I am sorry to say, however, that it will not be possible for me in the foreseeable future to write the article for which you asked in your letter of February 25th. With appreciation for your activities…”
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