Theoretical Physicist Albert Einstein passed up an offer to become president of the young state of Israel in 1952.
Israel’s first president, Chaim Weizmann, referred to Einstein as “the greatest Jew alive” and asked Einstein if he would be willing to lead the nation, according to History.com.
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A letter from the Embassy of Israel inquiring whether Einstein would accept the presidency if it were offered to him said that the position would include “complete facility and freedom to pursue your great scientific work,” according to Jewish Virtual Library.
The letter, which said it was relaying the question from Prime Minister Ben Gurion, said “the Prime Minister's question embodies the deepest respect which the Jewish people can repose in any of its sons. To this element of personal regard, we add the sentiment that Israel is a small State in its physical dimensions, but can rise to the level of greatness in the measure that it exemplifies the most elevated spiritual and intellectual traditions which the Jewish people has established through its best minds and hearts both in antiquity and in modern times.”
Einstein replied that he was “deeply moved, and at once saddened and ashamed” that he couldn’t accept the position, according to Jewish Virtual Library.
“All my life I have dealt with objective matters, hence I lack both the natural aptitude and the experience to deal properly with people and to exercise official functions,” Einstein’s said, according to the report.
He also noted his advancing age and said “my relationship to the Jewish people has become my strongest human bond, ever since I became fully aware of our precarious situation among the nations of the world.”
Einstein said the role of president may require him “to assume moral responsibility for the decisions of others,” that might conflict with his conscience, according to The Guardian.
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