Fifteenth Anniversary and Banquet of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency
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Fifteenth Anniversary and Banquet of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency

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The great banquet hall of the Hotel Commodore was hushed in perfect silence when Professor Einstein rose to speak. He spoke in German. The speech, which was broadcast, was later translated into English. Dr. A. S. W. Rosenbach, president of the American Friends of the Hebrew University, opened the evening with a few words on the greatness of the occasion and the magnitude of the honor which Professor Einstein had paid both the Jewish Telegraphic Agency and the Hebrew University, by consenting to be present. He was followed by Sol M. Stroock, the toastmaster of the evening, who introduced the speakers.

A well-chosen program had been arranged and among the noted speakers were such well-known figures as Mayor John P. O’Brien, Mr. James Marshall, Dr. Nathan Ratnoff, President of the American Jewish Physicians’ Committee; Dr. Emanuel Libman, Director of the American Jewish Physicians’ Committee; Dr. Harlow Shapley of the Harvard University Astronomical Observatory; Dr. Karl T. Compton of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Ferdinand Ververka, Czechoslovakian Minister to the United States; Dr. Otto C. Kiep, German Consul General, and Dr. Solomon Lowenstein, Executive Director of the Federation for the Support of Jewish Philanthropic Societies.

Particular piquancy was added to the enjoyment of the evening by the recital of an ode by Louis Untermeyer, specially addressed to Professor Albert Einstein on his 54th birthday.


“The Jewish people belongs among the most oppressed national minorities… in order not to be crushed… this people requires… cohesiveness, solidarity… this the Jewish Telegraphic Agency has been doing for a decade and a half in a graphic and objective manner,” said Professor Einstein.

“Let me first give expression to my delight and gratitude for the wonderful reception which has been given to me in this festive hall by so prominent and distinguished an assemblage,” continued Dr. Einstein, looking around with evident pleasure at the massed gathering of friends. “But, this honor at so serious a time, would depress rather than exalt them,” he continued, “if it were not for the redeeming consciousness that, by this visit, I could be of service to two institutions which are very close to my heart: the University in Jerusalem and the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

“Let us fix our eye first upon Palestine. It should fill us with pride and joy that our work of upbuilding is made possible, to a great extent, by liberal gifts, and that those whose hearts and hands have achieved this upbuilding have imposed upon themselves a hard lot in order to serve a high ideal. We may, therefore, say that this work rests upon the shoulders of the best of our people. It is because of this, that it has until now wonderfully withstood all the difficulties of trial and affliction and stands today more sound and promising than many settlements in lands more favored by nature. If the speed of growth does not satisfy some of our hotheaded and impatient brethren, let us remember that in social structures as well as in organisms the most worth while are not those which grow and mature most rapidly.

“As old as the plan of the upbuilding work itself is the plan for the establishment of the Jewish University in Jerusalem. This is not to be wondered at in a people who have for nearly two millenia treasured as the highest good the pursuit of the spiritual for its own sake. So it was that soon after the War, on one of the most beautiful spots of the country, the University was founded Originally, it was not intended primarily as an institution of instruction, but as a center of research.”

Proceeding to deal with the early difficulties, inseparable from a young University, he said:

“The sympathetic interest which this work, together with the Library in Jerusalem, had aroused among intellectual Jewish elements was universal and strong and there arose great-hearted givers who made possible the realization of the University, in which efficient and devoted scientists were already busy and are still busy. In spite of many diseases of infancy through which such a new institution exposed to so many varying influences must pass, the University has today already demonstrated its vitality and the Palestine work can not longer be thought of without it.

“With gratitude may be mentioned here Mr. Felix Warburg, and not less the American Jewish Physicians Committee. The Jewish people will never forget their help on behalf of the University.

“I am convinced that it is especially fortunate for the University that Dr. Weizmann has decided to put his abilities at its disposal and to found and direct a department for agriculture. His great experiences in the field of chemistry and administration and last but not least his rare knowledge of men, will be of great usefulness for the University; his fascinating personality will also lend it new attractiveness.

“I believe in a sound and beautiful development of the institution in the next few years.”

Dr. Einstein’s remarks on the part the University was called to play in connection with the sufferings experienced by Jewish students in European universities were listened to with great attention.

“The significance of the University in Jerusalem for the Jewish people,” he said, “will be heightened by the fact that the Jews in Eastern Europe are being barred from the sciences and the practice of scientific professions. In the course of the years, I have heard and read much that is said regarding this spiritual misery, and, it is, unfortunately, not easy to say where the western boundary of this eastern Europe is to be sought. In any case, this boundary is indefinite and the psychical misery of the Jews is not lighter than the physical.

“Many talented Jews are lost to culture because the way to learning is barred to them. It will be one of the foremost aims of the University in Jerusalem to alleviate this misery. May it contribute to the attainment by the Jewish people of a spiritual and moral height which will be worthy of its past.”

Moving with his inimitable logic from the subject of the University to the J.T.A., Prof. Einstein declared:

“The task of the Jerusalem University just referred to leads us to our second chief object, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. The Jewish people belongs among the most oppressed national minorities; it is a national minority in all places whither its wandering staff has led it. It belongs among those peoples who must suffer to an especially high degree from the prevailing disease of an exaggerated nationalism. This nationalism is a grave danger for the entire western civilization which at one time had its origin in Greece; behind it are powers inimical to life. To combat it, is the inescapable duty of every well-intentioned and perceiving person of our time.

“We Jews have to suffer from this scourge not only as one of the oldest branches of our western culture, but also as a people which is scattered over the entire world and is, therefore, regarded as nationally alien everywhere. In order not to be crushed, at this time, by inimical powers in its environment, this people requires living cohesiveness, solidarity.

“Such a living cohesiveness is possible only if we are kept objectively informed about the lot of the Jews in all countries. This, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency has been doing for a decade and a half in a graphic and objective manner, and, in so doing, it has performed an important service to the Jewish people. To support this private enterprise in times of economic crisis is a self-evident duty of self-preservation. It is also part of the struggle for justice, whose significance transcends merely Jewish interests themselves. As director of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Mr. Jacob Landau has earned commendation which we joyfully acknowledge this day.

“As I, myself, am no Nationalist,” concluded Prof. Einstein, “the meaning of a people, in my opinion, lies in this that it achieves something for humanity. I shall not bring up the question regarding the Jewish people here and now, but will only emphasize that this point must always be our guide in everything Jews undertake. The only worthy attitude of an individual as of a nation is this — to serve a greater whole and to strive for improvement and ennoblement.”

At the conclusion of Prof. Einstein’s address the whole gathering rose and gave him an ovation which took several minutes to subside.

Sol M. Stroock, Chairman of the Dinner Committee, who introduced Dr. Einstein, touched on the personality of the guest of honor and his association with the Hebrew University. He said, “We are now prepared to listen with reverence and rapt attention to Prof. Einstein in whose honor we are met tonight.

“Professor Einstein eludes description. He cannot be confined within the limits of any definition, for his variety is indeed infinite. To speak of him as physicist, as mathematician, as philosopher, satisfies no one, for we still leave his majestic personality clouded in infra-red invisibility. Holding the stars in a tether, he disposes for us poor earth worms of that which we have been pleased to call infinity. Here I tread upon dangerous ground for we have been told that infinity is only an artistic creation and that deSitter has maintained that ‘Infinity is not a physical but a mathematical concept, introduced to make our equations more symmetrical and elegant.’

“In common with our fellows of every nation who love learning, and especially as Americans, we rejoice that here in America Einstein will devote his life in the great institution soon to be established at Princeton for advanced education, where scholarship will blossom and flower into glorious fruition.

“Particularly on this night it is important to recall that Einstein’s earliest contribution in the field of advanced or higher education was made to the Hebrew University at Jerusalem. It is therefore, with great satisfaction that those of us who love this Hebrew University and are devoted to its upbuilding as one of the great forces of civilization, congratulate ourselves because it is under the auspices of this University that this tribute to Professor Einstein is being paid tonight.

“When the call to establish the University was made, Professor Einstein immediately responded. He served as a member of its first Board of Governors and he was the chairman of its first Academic Council. He loyally and unselfishly gave of his time, of his energy and of his learning to the cause and he proved to be a veritable tower of strength for its Chancellor, our distinguished fellow-American, Dr. Judah L. Magnes. As early as the year 1921, in company with Dr. Weizmann, Professor Einstein made a tour in this country in the interests of the Hebrew University. Funds were raised and the beginnings of the project made possible. Because of Professor Einstein’s example, eminent scholars all over the world rallied to the standard of the Hebrew University and valiantly served so that the University has attained its present proud distinction as one of the World’s outstanding seats of learning.

“It is well to recall that Professor Einstein selected the Hebrew University to be the repository of the original manuscript of his ‘Theory of Relativity’ and that the University guards and cherishes that priceless gift among its many thousands of unique manuscripts and volumes in the great library which has been erected upon Mt. Scopus.”

“The Jewish Telegraphic Agency has won the confidence of the press of the world,” says Mr. James Marshall in eloquent address on work of J.T.A.

Mr. James Marshall, who showed deep insight into the work of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, devoted his address particularly to the part played by the J.T.A. in general Jewish life.

“We laymen,” he said, “join whole-heartedly with the leaders of science and education in honoring our guest of the evening. The new concepts of time and space which he has given to the world leave most of us reeling in a fog. We know that he has written that time and space are interchangeable. This thought Professor Einstein has made clear to us by his interest in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Of all things in the world a news-gathering agency makes time and space one. The events which occur at midnight in Eastern Europe can appear in the evening papers on the Pacific Coast.

“To those who know Professor Einstein it it not surprising that when the suggestion was first made for a dinner in his honor, he gave his consent only on the condition that the event might be used in some way to further the educational and humanitarian causes to which he is devoted. One of these causes is the Hebrew University; the other which he is honoring tonight is the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

“Dr. Einstein’s interest in the latter is not surprising,” proceeded Mr. Marshall. “Caught up in the welter of racial conflicts and antagonisms which have been embroiling Europe, Professor Einstein has been in a position to judge the value of the prompt and truthful dissemination of news, and he has had an opportunity to weigh the services of the Telegraphic Agency in a way which few of us in America have been able to do. For more than fifteen years this organization has distributed Jewish news throughout the world. Its information has been collected by correspondents in every center of Jewish life and forwarded to established news services in many lands. Our Associated Press, Reuter’s in England and Havas in France subscribe to its service and thus make its reports available to thousands of newspapers.

“What must particularly impress one with respect to the Telegraphic Agency is that it has access to doors closed to common investigators. There are few men in the world, few dictators even, who feel themselves secure against the power of public opinion which is stimulated and formed by the press. No minority people, no oppressed race, can find a better bulwark or a more ready champion than the great international news services of our time.

“By its objective reporting the Jewish Telegraphic Agency has won the confidence of the press of the world, so that its dispatches are accepted by the leading journals everywhere. This in itself is an asset of incalculable value to the Jewish community.

“It has been my privilege to know of a number of instances in which the prompt and efficient reporting by the Telegraphic Agency has saved both individual Jews and communities from persecution and discrimination.

“In the best tradition of modern journalism the Jewish Telegraphic Agency is a neutral platform seeking to reflect faithfully the several parties and points of view in Jewish life. Therein also it performs a valuable service to the Jewish community. Complete objectivity and impartiality is often a difficult and ungrateful task. To many partisans ‘impartial’ means nothing short of one hundred per cent. identification with the viewpoint of his or her group.

“Among the antagonistic and frequently bitter battles in the Jewish community itself the Telegraphic Agency has performed a difficult task well and is in a position to continue its good work.

“Year after year the Jewish Telegraphic Agency has to meet its deficit by calling upon members of the community for aid. It must be obvious that the broader the base of this assistance the more certain will the Agency be of its acceptance by the community.

“All of the friends of the Agency are therefore very grateful to the guest of the evening for having expressed to the world his own evaluation of the service performed by the Agency.

“It is a great privilege to me.” said Mr. Marshall. in conclusion, “to be able to stand here tonight and to join men and women of learning in honoring not only Professor Einstein, the seeker of truth. but also the two great institutions of the modern world devoted to truth, the university and the press.”


“The importance of the message which I bring on behalf of the American Jewish Physicians’ Committee,” Dr. Ratnoff said, “gives me the courage to speak and the assurance that my words will be favorably received. I first met Dr. Einstein in 1921 when he came to this country to interest the Jewish people in the Hebrew University. This was the starting point of the history of the American Jewish Physicians’ Committee which now has grown to be a vital factor. Its contributions to the Hebrew University and to the proposed Medical School have been, I am assured, of tremendous value in carrying forward the program of the Hebrew University.

“Whenever there is a crisis, there is a tendency on the part of people to make hurried inventories of their possessions. They want to adjust themselves to the new condition created by the crisis, and they do this by hurriedly examining what resources they have and the possibilities of keeping these resources safely. Those of us who are fortunate enough to be contributors in both work and money to the Hebrew University, must at a critical time like this, feel a great deal of spiritual satisfaction. Our investment in the Hebrew University, in time and money, is secure. Long after the present crisis is past, we will derive happiness from the thought that we not only helped build the Hebrew University, but that we started it during times of great economic difficulty.”


Professor Karl T. Compton, President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who brought greetings to Professor Einstein on behalf of American scientists, said: “It is a pleasure for me to have the privilege of greeting Professor Einstein on behalf of American scientists. There is first the pleasure of renewing a personal contact made with Professor Einstein on the occasion of his first visit to America shortly after the War, when he delivered a series of lectures on relativity at Princeton University. Going farther back, there is a second personal connection which Professor Einstein knows nothing about but which I venture to say has been duplicated by many of my fellow American scientists in some such way as the following.

“Some years ago when my fiancee was debating with herself as to whether she was doing wisely in joining me in the great adventure, we were being entertained in the home of her most admired and respected friend, the pastor of her Methodist Church. After dinner this man, who was by nature a poet rather than a scientist, asked me to explain to him in simple language Einstein’s theory of relativity, and listened with apparently absorbed interest to my efforts to present this in non-technical language. The next morning he said to my fiancee, ‘I approve of your young man in all but one respect: he has no sense of humor. I asked him to explain to me Einstein’s theory of relativity and he really tried to do it. You are taking a long chance in marrying a man who has no sense of humor.’ So I suspect every American physicist or mathematician has at one time or another been in a quandary as to whether he should engage upon the hopeless task of an attempted explanation, or whether he should find wisdom in cowardice by stating that he did not understand the theory himself, which was very likely to be true.

“The third reason for personal gratification lies in the fact that my first real research work in physics, which was my doctor’s thesis at Princeton, constituted I believe the first reasonably conclusive experimental proof of the famous Einstein photoelectric equation and through it the correlation of the frequency of light, the contact potential characteristic of any metal illuminated by the light, and the kinetic energy of electrons ejected from the metal under the influence of the light. It was this work which was refined in certain particulars by Millikan four years later to give the most accurate experimental determination of that famous constant of modern physics known as ‘Planck’s constant’.

“Professor Einstein’s interpretation of the role of Planck’s constant in phenomena which involve the interaction of radiation and matter, has been the real foundation of all the marvelous development in spectroscopy and atomic structure, which is the outstanding achievement of physical science in the past 20 years. Perhaps because big things are more spectacular than little things, or perhaps because people like to talk and to hear about things which they sense vaguely but do not understand, or perhaps for some other reason which I cannot analyze, the public fancy has been taken much more with Professor Einstein’s contributions to the theory of relativity than with his contributions to atomic physics and radiation. While the former contributions have been far more extensive, I believe that public opinion should not lose sight of the fact that Professor Einstein’s basic contributions to the development of the quantum theory have probably been of even greater influence in affecting the development of the physical sciences than his great general theory of relativity.

“Perhaps any attempt to estimate the relative importance of these two great contributions which Professor Einstein has made to twentieth century science, is futile because the estimate may be difficult if gaged on the minute scale of the instantaneous condition of an atom or by the enormous scale of the universe as it is extending through all the ages. This contrast, however, will at least serve to emphasize the great range of interest and of application of the work of Professor Einstein.”

Touching on Einstein’s future regular connection with American scientists, he said. “It is needless for me to say that all American scientists are delighted with the new arrangement under which Professor Einstein will be regularly one of us. We are delighted not only because of the prestige which his presence will give to our institutions, but also because of the interest and stimulation which his presence will arouse in our young American scientists who will see in him an ideal which unconsciously beckons them ‘go thou and do likewise’.”

In conclusion Prof. Compton paid a graceful tribute to Frau Einstein:

“Finally, we are delighted with the new arrangement because those of us who have had the privilege of coming to know Professor Einstein personally, appreciate him as a person and are glad on personal grounds to have him as an associate. In this welcome we include also the most effective of all his colleagues, Frau Einstein.”


It was but apt that one of the addresses should be devoted exclusively to science, and this task was ably discharged by Dr. Harlow Shapley, Ph.D., of Harvard College Observatory. In a fascinating address, he succeeded in presenting some of the most abstruse astronomical problems in a remarkably civil manner.


The evening concluded with the graceful ceremony of the Community Church Award to Professor Einstein, made by John Haynes Holmes of the Community Church. The award is made each year for distinguished religious service, interpreted in the sense of religious idealism. The first award was to Mahatma Gandhi.

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