Menu signed by Albert Einstein at ORT fundraising dinner to be auctioned later this month

Einstein spoke presciently about the plight of European Jewry as guest of honour at Savoy Hotel dinner in October 1930


A menu from ORT UK's fundraising dinner on 28 October, 1930 features signatures from guest of honour Albert Einstein as well as eminent delegates such as H.G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw, and Chairman Lord Rothschild. (Photo: Lawrence Auctioneers)

A menu signed by Albert Einstein at an ORT fundraising dinner in 1930 is being auctioned off later this month.

The dinner, chaired by Rt. Hon. Lord Rothschild, hosted a plethora of prominent figures at the Savoy Hotel in London on 28 October, 1930, where Einstein was lauded as the guest of honour and gave a speech whose message of hope for the Jewish people has an uncanny resonance today.

The menu will be auctioned off by Lawrence Auctioneers in Somerset on 21 March.

Victoria Eves, whose maternal grandfather purchased the menu as a historic collectible in the 1980s, made the decision to sell the artifact while clearing out space in her mother’s home and reflecting on what the item could mean to the wider Jewish community.

“Einstein is one of the most famous people in history, and I think people often forget about his heritage,” said Eves. “Particularly in the world we live in today, with the rise of antisemitism, it feels bigger and more important than us, and we thought it was something that should actually be shared rather than just sat in one of our homes.”

Dan Rickman, CEO of ORT UK, said the menu is an "incredibly important artifact from a historic event in ORT UK’s history.”

Known in 1930 as British ORT, the organisation was established only nine years earlier to fundraise for ORT’s international projects and offer vocational training to Jewish communities trapped in poverty, Rickman explained.

In 1930, as the Nazi party were gaining popularity, British ORT formed a union with fellow organisation OZE to become the Joint British Committee of the Societies ORT-OZE for promoting the economic and physical welfare of east-European Jewry. 

“The chairman of the organisation, Lord Rothschild, himself a scientist, invited the much-admired German-Jewish scientist, Albert Einstein, to be guest of honour at their special appeal dinner at The Savoy,” said Rickman.

Einstein travelled to London specifically for the event, which was attended by over 370 people. He sat among esteemed guests such as George Bernard Shaw and H.G. Wells, whose signatures are also featured on the menu.

According to a Lawrence Auctioneers spokesperson, the menu was passed down the head table for each eminent delegate to sign, evidenced by the matching pen ink and order of signatures which corresponds to the seating plan for the evening.

In his speech, Einstein eloquently noted that the “plight of our Jewish community all over the world is at the same time a barometer reading of the political world's moral standard. For what could be more telling of the level of both political morality and of a feeling for justice than the attitude of the nations towards a defenceless minority whose very nature lies in their preserving an ancient cultural tradition?”

“This barometer is very visible in our time,” Einstein continued. “We feel this grievously as part of our fate. But it is this very low point that so reinforces my conviction that it is our duty to ensure the survival and strengthening of this community. A striving for reason and justice that lies within the tradition of the Jewish people should so serve, both now and in the future, for all the peoples of the world.”

George Bernard Shaw, who was tasked with delivering a toast to the guest of honour, announced in the Jewish Telegraphic Agency newspaper on 2 November, 1930 that the dinner had been a great success, raising over $24,000 for impoverished Jewish communities in Europe.

“The menu is a symbol of the strength of the Jewish community when we pull together in times of oppression, which is especially pertinent in the current climate,” said Rickman. “It fills us with gratitude that, true to Einstein’s words, ORT UK is still going strong, with both science and Jewish continuity at its core.”

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