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Evelyn Einstein, Granddaughter, 70

Shiva Stars

Marc Tracy
April 21, 2011
Evelyn Einstein in 1960.(AP/NYT)
Evelyn Einstein in 1960.(AP/NYT)

Like “Huppah Dreams,” our weekly series which picks the most interestingly Jewish announcement in the Weddings/Celebrations section, “Shiva Stars” will selected the most interestingly Jewish obituary from the past week’s New York Times. This is not intended to make light of the dead, but rather to celebrate their lives. However, if you feel it crosses a line, let us know in the comments. Not that you needed us to tell you that.

Each Thursday, we select the most interestingly Jewish obituary from the past week. Today, it is Evelyn Einstein, 70, granddaughter of a certain Albert, who despite obvious mental gifts and allegiance to certain causes (she was arrested in 1960 for protesting the House Un-American Activities Committee), lived a liminal existence that included stints of homelessness. Being Einstein’s granddaughter turned out to produce a severe anxiety of influence, in unexpected ways: “It’s not so easy being an Einstein,” she once said. “When I was in school at Berkeley in the ’60s, I could never tell if men wanted to be with me because of me, or my name. To say, you know, ‘I had an Einstein.’” (One such man, her husband, was an anthropology professor who tried to prove the existence of Bigfoot—unsuccessfully, we can presume.)

Yet her lineage was important to her, if her battle, at the end of her life, to fight Hebrew University’s infamous marketing of Einstein’s image, is any indication. “What does a bobblehead doll have to do with a literary estate?” she asked.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.