Bintel Blog

The Quantum Leaps of an American Jewish Physicist

By Benjamin Ivry

  • Print
  • Share Share

The American Jewish physicist and journalist Jeremy Bernstein, born in 1929 in Rochester, New York, has just produced a delightfully discursive, digressive semi-memoir, “Quantum Leaps,” just out from Harvard University Press.

Bernstein’s father, Rabbi Philip S. Bernstein, a fixture for almost a half century at Temple B’rith Kodesh outside Rochester, left an unpublished memoir among his papers, “I Never Regretted Being a Rabbi : A Sort of Autobiography,” and “Quantum Leaps” can also be called a “sort of autobiography,” insofar as it includes material on the author’s life, alongside musings about Jewish physicists like the Belgian Léon Rosenfeld and Matvei Petrovich Bronstein a Russian victim of Stalin’s antisemitic Great Purge of 1937-38.

Rosenfeld was a testy, judgmental Marxist, Bernstein explains, quoting a letter complaining about a “polemical writing” by French Jewish astrophysicist Évry Léon Schatzman which, according to Rosenfeld, is “full of incorrect physics and quotations from Stalin.” Rising above such polemics, Bernstein also discusses the recent portrayal of physics in literature, notably by the novelist Rebecca Newberger Goldstein born in 1950 to an Orthodox Jewish family, and author of a number of acclaimed books, notably “Properties of Light,” a devastating portrait of academic life in which, as Bernstein observes, “Tenured faculty, who have come to despise each other, have only the power to make each other’s lives as miserable as possible.”

By contrast, Bernstein’s own deft, enlightened, and informed writings have made science-minded readers as happy as possible for decades.

Watch below as Jeremy Bernstein discusses his former mentor J Robert Oppenheimer at a 2008 symposium at CUNY (Bernstein begins to speak just after the 50 minute point).

Listen to a tape of a 1966 interview by Jeremy Bernstein in his guise as journalist with the director Stanley Kubrick.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Stanley Kubrick, Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, Jeremy Bernstein

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • What's it like to be Chagall's granddaughter?
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.