15 Aug “THE EINSTEIN EFFECT” AN INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR BENYAMIN COHEN, THE OFFICIAL MANAGER OF ALBERT EINSTEIN’S 20 MILLION SOCIAL MEDIA FOLLOWERS
Albert Einstein was the first modern-day celebrity and, decades after his death, still has the world’s most recognizable face. His influence
is seen in much of the technology we use every day: GPS, remote controls, weather forecasts, even toothpaste. But it’s not just Einstein’s
scientific discoveries that continue to shape our world. His legacy underpins the search for aliens, the rescue of refugees, the invention
of time machines, and the debunking of fake news. He appears in new books, TV shows, and movies all the time–and fans are paying
millions for Einstein relics at auction.
Award-winning author and journalist Benyamin Cohen has a bizarre side hustle as the manager of Einstein’s official social media
accounts, which have 20 million followers–more than most living celebrities. In The Einstein Effect, Cohen embarks on a global quest
to unearth Einstein’s ongoing relevance today. Along the way, he meets scientists and celebrities, speaks to dozens with the last name
Einstein (including two rabbis), and even tracks down the brain of Einstein, stolen from his body during the autopsy. Cohen shows us the
myriad ways the Nobel Prize winner’s influence is still with us, giving an in-depth–and often hilarious–look at the world’s favorite genius
like you’ve never seen him before. Last week Ari Hirsch from The Country Vues had the opportunity to interview Benyamin Cohen to
discuss Einstein & his new book.
How is Albert Einstein
as popular as he is, 68
years after he died?
It’s pretty amazing that
Einstein has more than
20 million fans on social
media. You don’t see
or Isaac Newton on
Twitter. Einstein also
has more followers than
most living celebrities.
And I think that’s
because he’s universally
beloved — no matter
your age, where you live,
Republican or Democrat,
Jewish or not Jewish,
young or old, he’s one
of the few people that
everyone can agree on.
How did you come to run the Albert
Einstein social media platform?
Many years ago, I read a book about
Einstein’s autopsy. The pathologist
performing the procedure stole Einstein’s
brain and kept it hidden in his basement in
a beer cooler for decades. It’s a crazy, but
true, story and I wondered, “Wow, what
else don’t I know about Einstein?” So it set
me on a journey. I’m a journalist and I kept
writing articles about quirky things about
Einstein. Eventually, the Albert Einstein
Archives, which owns his social media
accounts, contacted me and asked if I’d
become Einstein to his millions of fans.
I’ve been doing it now for six years. It’s an
awesome responsibility to speak for one of
the smartest people of the 20th century.
Where is the Einstein estate & who runs
Einstein left his archives not to Princeton,
but to the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
He was a co-founder
of the school and was
an ardent Zionist. As a
matter of fact, Einstein’s
first trip to the U.S. was
with Chaim Weizmann.
The two of them traveled
around America raising
money for Israel. Anyway,
Hebrew University has
Einstein’s actual Nobel
Prize and more than
85,000 documents from
Einstein — including
the original copy of the
theory of relativity. This
summer in Jerusalem they
broke ground on a new
building – the world’s
largest Einstein museum.
It should open in a year or two.
Please tell everyone about your new book
“The Einstein Effect”
My new book shows the modern-day
relevance of the world’s favorite genius. For
example, not many people know this, but
the theory of relativity laid the foundation
for our GPS system. So the next time Waze
is directing you through traffic, you have
Albert Einstein to thank for that. I also
spent time with a Harvard astronomer who
is searching for aliens and his work is all
based on Einstein’s research. I interviewed
celebrities and artists and more than a dozen
people named Einstein (including two
Rabbi Einsteins!) to show how he serves as
an inspiration to so many people on a daily
What was Einstein most famous for?
He’s probably most well-known for E=mc2
or the theory of relativity, but I think what’s
truly fascinating about Einstein’s legacy is
that the average person doesn’t understand
any of the physics. They simply look to
Einstein as this totem of genius. It’s a very
Jewish, almost Yeshivish, concept where
we hold people with such intellect in high
Was Einstein Jewish?
Of course! During research for my book,
I found the certificate filled out by his
mohel in 1879 at a shul in Ulm, Germany.
Einstein’s Hebrew name was Avraham. On
a much more serious note, Einstein was one
of the most famous Jews in Germany during
the rise of Hitler. The Nazis considered
Einstein a public enemy and reportedly put
a $5,000 bounty on his head. He was able
to flee to America, and when he got here,
he made it his personal mission to rescue
his fellow German Jews. He spent his own
money (and he was not wealthy) helping
relocate Jews from Germany all across the
globe – including to Mexico and Alaska.
Einstein also launched the International
Rescue Committee to help Jews escape the
Holocaust. The organization is still around
today. It’s one of the world’s largest refugee
aid organizations. I actually interviewed a
Jewish Ukrainian refugee who was saved
last year thanks to Einstein’s group.
How Jewish was he?
Einstein saw what Hitler did in Germany
and, even though Einstein wasn’t religious
(he didn’t go to morning minyan, for
example), being Jewish was, I think,
the guiding principle of his entire life. It
motivated so much of what he did. Even
some of his scientific research was done
to try and beat the Nazis from discovering
it first. On the table beside Einstein’s
deathbed, a nurse found papers of a speech
Einstein was in the middle of writing. It was
all about the importance of Israel, and he
was hoping to deliver it a few weeks later
on Yom Ha’atzmaut. The Einstein archives
now has those documents.
Do you know if Einstein met any of the
gedolim from his time?
Einstein had a decades-long friendship with
Rabbi Chaim Tchernowitz, a rosh yeshiva in
Odessa who later immigrated to the United
States. Einstein and Tchernowitz used to
go sailing and talk about Judaism. When
Tchernowitz launched a project called the
Talmudic Encyclopedia, Einstein served on
its advisory council and helped raise funds
and awareness for it.
Do you plan on doing a sequel on
We’ll see how well this one sells! I may
write my next book about what it’s like
being Jewish in West Virginia, where I live.
I have a lot of good stories about that.
Being the expert that you are on Einstein
at this point, If you could ask him three
questions, what would they be?
– What’s the best piece of advice you ever
– You’re known as someone who was very
pithy and funny. What’s your favorite joke?
– Brisket or cholent?