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Was Albert Einstein Jewish?
Albert Einstein is widely recognized as one of the most influential scientific figures in history. He is arguably the most famous Jewish scientist of all time, and a role model for Jews everywhere. His life and work has inspired a multitude of people and his connection to Judaism was significant.
Although born to secular Jewish parents, Albert Einstein was baptized a Catholic at the age of six and his upbringing was centered around German culture, not specifically Jewish culture. As a young adult, he was a self-proclaimed agnostic, describing himself as “free from all religious dogma”. It was only later in life that he would openly express his Jewish identity.
Throughout his life, Einstein publicly expressed his Jewish identity and espoused Jewish ideals and values. He made numerous references to the Jewish religion which provided the philosophical foundations of his life and career. Einstein was an advocate of Zionism and expressed a belief that Jews had a right to self-determination in Palestine. He wrote on several occasions that “Jewish life is based on religious faith, humanistic conviction, communal solidarity and national revival.”
In a speech he gave for the opening of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1925, Einstein expressed his profound admiration for the Jewish people. He said:
“I am happy to belong to a people who, in hardships more than any other, has been able to carry on the principle of intellectual and moral freedom through the centuries – a people who has so often been able to struggle successfully against the pressure of outsiders, and against its own inertia.”
Einstein also wrote a piece for a special issue of the Jewish magazine “Allgemeine Zeitung des Judentums” in 1930 which bears testament to his pride in being a Jew. In the piece, entitled “Why Do I Adhere to Judaism?”, Einstein explains his love of the Jewish people and their history, as well as noting the importance of morality within Judaism.
In a 1933 magazine article, Einstein remarked that “the Jewish people’s need for a homeland is no less intense than the need for a spiritual center,” and he would remain a vocal supporter of Zionism until his death in 1955.
These examples and his many other public expressions of his Jewishness bear testament to the fact that although not religiously observant, Einstein felt a strong connection to the Jewish people, culture and values. This was a connection which would stay with him throughout his life and would go on to serve as an inspiration to many Jews around the world.