The Israeli community will soon be able to experience a reconstruction of Albert Einstein’s 1930s study, as well as read authentic texts from the genius’ personal library, thanks to a new museum at Hebrew University, set to open by the end of 2024.
“Right here, we are laying the foundations for vital living archives of writings of one of the greatest minds in the history of humanity,” said President Isaac Herzog at a ground-breaking ceremony at the university’s Mt. Scopus campus on Tuesday evening.
Titled the Einstein House, the new museum would deepen the scientist’s longstanding ties with the university. In 1923, Einstein delivered the university’s inaugural scientific lecture, and he bequeathed all his literary materials to its archives upon his death.
The Einstein estate is managed by former university president Prof. Hanoch Gutfreund, who said that once completed, the museum would explore the intersection of Einstein’s intellectual, political and Jewish identities. The scientist was a fervent pacifist and Zionist and, according to Gutfreund, believed that Hebrew University would be “the arena where the values Jewish tradition come into play in modern times.”
A major part of the exhibit will be an accessible explanation of Einstein’s general theory of relativity, which Gutfreund claimed is the source of “all of our groundbreaking discoveries of the universe.” He provided examples of black holes, gravitational waves and the theory of the expanding universe to demonstrate its importance.
The exhibit will also contain interactive components, like a reconstruction of Einstein’s office at Princeton University, as well as open access to records of his personal library. “If you want to know what a young Jewish intellectual in the 1920s in Berlin would read…this is his library,” the estate manager said.
Asher Cohen: We have an opportunity to show Einstein's legacy
According to university president Asher Cohen, the archive hadn’t been previously accessible. “We didn’t really use it to show our students what Einstein did because it was really hidden in an archive. Now we have the opportunity to show our students our legacy: Einstein’s legacy.”
Yossi Gal, former diplomat and current VP for University and Advancement and External Relations explained that the building will showcase some of the 82,000 authentic documents written in Einstein’s prolific hand.
A swath of high-profile figures attended the event, including former prime minister Ehud Barak and President Isaac Herzog.
Architect Daniel Libeskind is spearheading the project. Renowned for designing the Jewish Museum of Berlin and the reconstruction of the World Trade Center in New York City, he informed this design with Einstein’s theories. “You can expect the building within two years to be right here… It’s, of course, going to be made out of Jerusalem stone,” he said.
According to Gutfreund, the building’s title is intentional. The building “will act as a museum, but I like to refer to it as an Einstein house in Jerusalem, because this conveys a certain sense of belonging, of identification.”
The event also celebrated the closing night of the university’s Board of Governors meeting. Both Cohen and donor Jose Mugrabi asserted that the building will be completed by the end of next year.
Mugrabi, who together with his wife Marie are the museum’s donors, said that he was fulfilling one of “the biggest dream” of his life, expressing his hope that the investment will one day produce a “future Einstein.”