Tag Archives: Princeton

Jew of the Week: Moe Berg

Baseball Player, Lawyer… and Secret Agent 

Moe Berg

Moe Berg

Morris Berg (1902-1972) was born in New York to Russian-Jewish immigrants. He began playing baseball at age 7, and by 16 was on Newark’s baseball “dream team”. He studied first at New York University, then Princeton, and graduated with a degree in languages, learning to speak seven of them. By his senior year, he was captain of Princeton’s baseball team. A day after his last game with Princeton, Berg signed a contract with the Brooklyn Robins. In the off-season, he headed to Paris and continued his studies at the world-famous Sorbonne (University of Paris). There, he began a personal routine of reading as many as 10 newspapers every single day. Berg was never very good at baseball, and was often traded and loaned between many different teams. Always a scholar first, in 1926 he told the Chicago White Sox that he is skipping spring training because he was enrolled in law school at Columbia University. He earned his law degree in 1930, and then split his time between baseball in the summer and working at a prestigious Wall Street law firm in the winter.

In 1932, Berg toured Asia, visiting Japan, China, Siam, India, and Egypt. A couple of years later, he returned to Japan with a video camera, later traveling to the Philippines, Korea, and Russia, before returning to play with the Red Sox for 5 seasons, then coaching the team for 2 more. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Berg joined the war effort and eventually became a spy. He shared his video footage of Japan, which was instrumental in planning American raids during the war. After serving in South America and the Caribbean, Berg was parachuted into Yugoslavia to assist resistance groups fighting the Nazis. His next mission was to travel across Europe and convince scientists working for the Nazis (particularly on their nuclear bomb project), to come work for the U.S. instead. In 1951, he requested that the CIA station him in Israel. Instead, they sent him to Europe to spy on Soviet nuclear work. In 1954, the CIA let him go and for the rest of his life Berg lived with his siblings, having never married. His wishes were to be cremated, and his ashes were scattered in Jerusalem. Berg was inducted into the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, and Baseball’s Shrine of the Eternals. He was awarded the Medal of Freedom, and his baseball card is on display at CIA headquarters. Berg was described as “the most scholarly professional athlete”, and the “strangest man ever to play baseball.”

Words of the Week

If you begin a good deed, finish it, for a mitzvah is credited to the one who concludes the task.
– Talmud, Sotah 13b

Jews of the Week: Nathan Rosen & Brian Podolsky

Podolsky and Rosen

Nathan Rosen (1909-1995) was born in Brooklyn and studied at MIT during the Great Depression. While still young, he published several famous papers, including ‘The Neutron’, which predicted the structure of the nucleus a year before it was discovered. Between 1935 and 1945 he was Albert Einstein’s personal assistant at Princeton. Together, they discovered (mathematically) a “bridge” connecting distant areas of space – now called a wormhole. With Einstein’s encouragement, Rosen moved to the nascent State of Israel and joined Haifa’s Technion in 1953. He later served as President of Ben-Gurion University, founded the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, the Physical Society of Israel, and the International Society for General Relativity and Gravitation. Aside from all this, he is most famous for coming up with the well-known “EPR Paradox” together with Einstein and a fellow Jewish scientist named Podolsky (hence “EPR”).

Boris Yakovlevich Podolsky (1896-1966) was born in Russia to a poor Jewish family which immigrated to the U.S. in 1913. He served in the US Army and worked as an electrical engineer before returning to school and earning a PhD from Caltech. In 1933 he was given a fellowship at Princeton, which led to his collaboration with Einstein and Rosen on the EPR Paradox. Interestingly, some have suggested that Podolsky was a Soviet spy, codenamed “Quantum”, and helped the Soviets start their nuclear program during World War II. His major legacy, however, is in the great work he did on solving various complex physics problems of the day.

Words of the Week

Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.
– Albert Einstein

Jew of the Week: Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein – Genius

The “father of modern physics”, Albert Einstein (1879-1955) was born in Germany, lived in Italy, and received his higher education in Switzerland. In 1905, Einstein exploded onto the science scene with 4 revolutionary papers on the subjects of the photoelectric effect, Brownian motion, special relativity, and mass/energy equivalence. By 1919 his research and theories were world-famous, with The Times reporting “Revolution in Science – New Theory of the Universe – Newtonian Ideas Overthrown”. He won the Nobel Prize two years later, for the photoelectric effect (not relativity!) In 1922, Einstein travelled the world, with a 12-day stop in Israel, during which he said “I consider this the greatest day of my life.” In 1933, he moved permanently to the US due to the Nazi rise to power. The Nazis raided his house, publicly burned his writings, and even put a bounty on his head worth $5000! Of them, he said, “I must confess that the degree of their brutality and cowardice came as something of a surprise.” Fearing the Nazis would develop an atomic bomb, Einstein penned a letter to President Roosevelt persuading him to start a nuclear weapon research program. Einstein would later call this the greatest mistake of his life – but a necessary one.

Einstein Predicts the Future...?

Einstein Predicts the Future…?

He spent the rest of his life researching, teaching and writing, based primarily at Princeton. He was a member of the NAACP and fought for civil rights in America. Becoming a vegetarian, Einstein believed mankind as a whole would benefit greatly by adopting such a diet. Three years before his death he was offered to be President of Israel, but was “saddened and ashamed” to decline, humbly admitting he would have no idea how to run a country. Einstein passed away while working on a speech for Israel’s 7th Independence Day. His brain was preserved to be studied, the rest of his body cremated and scattered. Receiving countless awards, Einstein would publish over 300 scientific works, and an additional 150 non-scientific ones. He revolutionized the fields of thermodynamics, light, quantum physics, energy, relativity, cosmology, statistics, motion and momentum, magnetization, refrigeration and a host of others. He was also a musician. So great is his legacy, that “Einstein” has become synonymous with “genius”.

Words of the Week

Einstein in 1947

Einstein in 1947

Gems from Albert Einstein:

No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.

Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.

Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.

The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.