Tag Archives: US Army

Jews of the Week: Lederman and Ashkin

Two 96-Year Old Nobel Prize Winners

Leon Lederman in 1988

Leon Max Lederman (1922-2018) was born in New York to Ukrainian-Jewish immigrants. After serving in World War II, he returned to work on a PhD in physics at Columbia University. He would become a distinguished physics professor there before taking a leave to join the world-renowned CERN in Switzerland. There, he discovered the muon neutrino in 1962. For this, as well as developing the “neutrino beam method”, he would later win the Nobel Prize in Physics. Lederman also discovered the bottom quark. In 1979, Lederman became the director of the prestigious Fermilab, running the world’s most powerful particle accelerator. After retiring in 1989, he was an occasional teacher at the University of Chicago and the Illinois Institute of Technology. He was also president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 1993 he published his bestselling book, The God Particle (coining that now-famous term). Lederman won countless awards and inspired a generation of physicists. Sadly, he was diagnosed with dementia, and the illness took a toll on both his health and his finances. He was forced to sell his Nobel Prize gold medal in order to pay for his medical bills. He passed away last week, at age 96.

Arthur Ashkin

Another 96-year old Jewish scientist who made headlines last week is Arthur Ashkin (b. 1922). He won a Nobel Prize in Physics for his invention of optical tweezers. Like Lederman, Ashkin was born in New York to Ukrainian-Jewish immigrants, and also attended Columbia University. During World War II, he was asked to stay in his lab to build magnetrons for US Army radars. After earning his PhD in nuclear physics at Cornell, Ashkin was hired by Bell Labs. He first worked on microwave technology, then moved on to lasers. After some two decades of work, Ashkin created a working optical tweezer, described as “an old dream of science fiction”. This allows tiny things like atoms, viruses, and cells to be grabbed, moved and manipulated. Today, it is an indispensable tool for countless research facilities around the world. Ashkin also co-discovered the photorefractive effect, and holds a whopping 47 patents. In addition to his many awards, he has been inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. His Nobel at age 96 makes him the oldest person ever to win the prize.

Words of the Week

An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that, in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle.
– Francis Crick, Nobel Prize-winning biologist

Jew of the Week: Rabbi Col. Jacob Goldstein

Rabbi Goldstein (Courtesy: JEM/Chabad.org)

Rabbi Goldstein (Courtesy: JEM/Chabad.org)

Jacob Z. Goldstein (b. 1947) was born in Brooklyn to a devout Chabad family. In 1967, the Lubavitcher Rebbe instituted the Tefillin Campaign to get all Jews – especially those distant from Jewish religious practice – to regularly don tefillin. Goldstein diligently took up the cause. He was soon visiting a military base to provide tefillin for Jewish soldiers. By 1977, the base’s Catholic chaplain requested that Goldstein enlist in the army as a chaplain himself. With blessings from the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Goldstein agreed. He has since served all over the world, in places like Afghanistan and Iraq, Bosnia and South Korea, Grenada, Israel, and even Cuba’s notorious Guantanamo Bay. Following the 9/11 attacks, Rabbi Goldstein was the Chief Chaplain at Ground Zero. Similarly, he was in charge of the chaplaincy in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. Over the years, he has helped to permit wearing beards for religious reasons in the armed forces, bring kosher meals to American soldiers, pave the way for more Jewish chaplains, and establish holiday observances and prayer services at military bases around the globe. He has risen to the rank of Colonel, and despite the typical mandatory retirement age of 60, has remained in the armed forces for an additional eight years due to a lack of chaplains in the force. Rabbi Goldstein finally retired last month after 38 years of dedicated service. In addition to his military role, he is also the longest-serving chairman of his Community Board in New York, and has been noted as a successful local politician, and a promoter of interracial cooperation and understanding.

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Words of the Week

Fundamental to Judaism is the belief in One God, and the quest to seek unity in all things… What is truly remarkable is that this idea has also gained prominence in the sciences, particularly in recent years. Increasingly, scientific theory and research is focusing on the endeavor to express all physical phenomena in a single formula and, more importantly, to discover the singular unifying force which underlies all other forces, so that all other forces are shown to be aspects and outgrowths of this singular force…
The Lubavitcher Rebbe

Rabbi Goldstein with the Lubavitcher Rebbe (Courtesy: JEM/Chabad.org)