Tag Archives: Switzerland

Jew of the Week: Rabbi Dr. Immanuel Schochet

Rabbi Dr. Immanuel Schochet

Rabbi Dr. Immanuel Schochet

Jacob Immanuel Schochet (1935-2013) was born in Switzerland to Jewish-Lithuanian parents. In 1951, the family moved to Toronto, and shortly after Schochet went to study at the Chabad Yeshiva in New York. There he became close with the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who encouraged him to pursue academic subjects. Schochet went on to earn a Master’s in religious studies and a Ph.D in philosophy, studying at the Universities of Toronto, Waterloo, Windsor and McMaster. He became an internationally renowned scholar of philosophy, mysticism and Hasidism, writing 35 books, translating many others, and penning countless articles (click here to read a selection of these). While serving as a community rabbi for over 45 years, he was also professor of philosophy at Humber College and professor of bioethics at the University of Toronto Medical School. Schochet lectured around the world, including at Yale and Oxford. He was a champion of the Jewish cause, successfully combating Christian missionaries, particularly ‘Jews for Jesus’, and openly challenged any missionary to debate him in public. A staunch defender of traditional Jewish beliefs, he was also critical of the Kabbalah Centre, as well as messianic movements within Chabad. His piety, wisdom, and love for Israel were recognized by all who met him. Sadly, Rabbi Schochet passed away on July 27th.

 

Words of the Week

Do not scorn any man, and do not discount any thing, for there is no man who does not have his hour, and no thing that does not have its place.
– Pirkei Avot 4:3

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.

Jew of the Week: Primo Levi

Chemist and World-Famous Author Primo Levi

Chemist and World-Famous Author Primo Levi

Primo Levi (1919-1987) was born in Turin, Italy. His brilliance was quickly noted even as a child, allowing him to start school a year early. After learning at both secular and religious schools in his youth, as an adult he decided to study chemistry. Despite the open anti-Semitism of the university system, Levi fought through it and graduated with honours. Being a Jew barred him from most jobs. However, a mining company that was aware of his intelligence and expertise offered him a position under a false name and false papers. He later found work for a Swiss company looking to extract anti-diabetic components from vegetables. As World War II worsened, Levi joined an Italian resistance movement. Untrained, he was quickly captured and arrested, sent to the Fossoli internment camp, and later to Auschwitz where he spent nearly a year until it was liberated by the Soviets. It didn’t get any easier at this point. To get back home to Turin he had to travel across Belarus, Hungary, Romania, Ukraine, Austria, and Germany (a story which has been adapted to film). After the war, Levi started a chemical company with a friend, synthesizing various industrial compounds like stannous chloride (for use in mirrors) and a variety of synthetic dyes. Meanwhile, he began writing about his roller coaster life experiences. He would go on to write two famous memoirs, one of which was voted the best science book ever written by London’s Royal Institution. Levi also penned many poems, essays and short stories – two of which have been adapted to film – and published two well-known novels. Often quoted, he once wrote: “The aims of life are the best defense against death.”

Words of the Week

If words are the pen of the heart, song is the pen of the soul.
– Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi