Alma Karmina Eidus Kastan
May 7, 2016

My Bat Mitzvah program asks students to discuss who their heroes are. I chose Albert Einstein as my hero. He was born in Germany in 1879. He was, perhaps, the greatest scientist of all time.

Like me, Albert Einstein was a secular, humanistic Jew. He believed in the good of people, rather than in a higher power. His parents were cultural Jews, not religious Jews. His scientific nature made him question all religion.

Another thing he and I have in common is that he had learning difficulties, as do I. He never let his difficulties get in the way of his intelligence and creativity. When he had an idea or belief, he pursued it. Like Einstein, I plan to overcome my difficulties in order to meet my goals and dreams.

My learning disability is dyslexia, which causes difficulties in reading. People with dyslexia process differently. We learn different strategies to break down words into readable units.

I had a difficult time attending public school. But now I attend Churchill, a private school for children with reading disabilities. Churchill has taught me many strategies to help myself. Every day, I’m encouraged to be creative and strong – like Albert Einstein.

Some people believe that he had dyslexia, like me. But this has never been proven. He had learning issues with his memory. For instance, he couldn’t memorize the months of the year. He left high school early, and then flunked his entry exam to a college of science. Yet, he always believed in himself.

Albert Einstein made some of the most important scientific discoveries of all time. He discovered the Theory of Relativity, which is about the nature and behavior of matter and energy. He created many other theories that proved that gravity, light, energy, and matter were all connected to each other. In 1921, he won the Nobel Prize for Physics.

Although I enjoy learning about science, I probably won’t become a scientist. I have other goals for myself. These goals could change. But, who knows? Even if I don’t become a scientist, I will always identify with Einstein. He never let his learning challenges get in his way. Nor will I.

Despite being such a famous scientist, Einstein could be very funny, which is another reason I identify with him. He once said, “Do not worry about your difficulties in math. I can assure you that mine are still greater.”

In addition to his scientific discoveries and strength, I also admire Einstein for his commitment to civil rights. I am Latina, born in Guatemala, and I know that Guatemalans and other Latinos have long been discriminated against. Even in New York City, my home, I need to be aware of the fact that one day I may experience racism.

In 1946, Einstein traveled to Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. It was the first school in the United States to grant college degrees to black students. He gave a speech in which he called racism “a disease of white people.” He said, “I do not intend to be quiet about it.”

Einstein had experienced discrimination in his native country of Germany. He was in the U.S. when the Nazis came to power in 1933. He was fearful that if he returned to Germany, he would be in great danger. There was a price on his head in Germany. His summer home in Germany was raided and taken over by Nazis.

He stayed in the U.S. and became an American citizen in 1940. He lived and worked in Princeton, New Jersey.

Princeton was a segregated town, which made Einstein unhappy. He said, “There was no high school that blacks could go to until the 1940s.” He helped the African-American community.

In 1935, he met Paul Robeson, the famous singer, actor, and social activist, and they became great friends. Paul Robeson is my mom’s hero. It makes us happy to know that her hero and my hero were such close friends. They worked together against the Nazis, and racism in the U.S.

My rabbi, Peter Schweitzer, has a personal connection to Einstein. His mother’s family summered upstate with Einstein. I think it’s amazing that Florence, his mother, got to hang out with Einstein when she was a teenager.

While I was working on this paper, my mom and dad wanted to give me a present to honor how hard I was working. Because my family is very big on humor, they gave me an Albert Einstein bobble head for Hannukah.

Albert Einstein inspires me with his confidence, intelligence, strength, creativity, humor, and belief in justice for all. I plan to live my life in the same spirit in which he lived his.