Jewlicious has The Middle, and we appreciate all he is and does. It is nice to see that NPR has decided that they, too, need a middle. And a very Jewlicious Middle at that: Nobel prize winning Polish jewish Chemist.

Cornell University professor Roald Hoffmann won the 1981 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. He was born in southeastern Poland, an area that is now Ukraine. After surviving the Holocaust, he and his mother emigrated to America in 1949. His father, grandparents and siblings were killed by the Nazis and he was hid by a Ukrainian teacher.

In addition to research and teaching, Hoffmann enjoys writing poetry, plays and essays. He, like the Rambam before him, advocates for a position that takes into account all sides and finds a middle truth.

I believe in the middle. Extremes may make a good story, but the middle satisfies me. Why? Perhaps because I’m a chemist…. The middle is not static… my psychological middle as well as the chemical equilibrium. I like that. Yes, of course I also want stability. But I believe that extreme positions — the things you start out with in a chemical reaction, the things you finish with (all people A, bad, all people B, good; no taxes at all, taxed to death) — all of these are impractical, unnatural, boring: the refuge of people who never want to change. The world is not simple, though God knows political forces on every side want to make it so. I like the tense middle and I am grateful for a life that offers me the potential for change.

About the author

Rabbi Yonah


  • oy vey…Mr. Hoffmann you are an absolute idiot!!.. The middle stisfies you??.. You jerk… that’s what happems when you try to bring Chemistry into logic…See even if you win a Nobel prize (certainly not in logic) you CAN be a smuck… That NPR picked you says it all.

  • Thanks for proving his point, Marvin.

    Hey, Rabbi Y., thanks for thinking of me. Of course the middle is the place for many fine human beings. 😉

  • A pleasure…. I take it that you think that my post was an “extreme” thus somehow proving the smucks point?.. The “middle place” has lots fuzzy minded victims in it.

  • Perhaps the middles are fuzzy minded, but the extremes are loonies who will place their silly ideas far ahead of people. Balance and harmony are vastly superior to tipping the scales in favor of lunacy. 🙂

  • Some extremists are loonie…depends on what the issue might be. Myself, I tend towards extremism when it comes to things like fighting Islamofacism (actually, they are one and the same). Those in the “middle” of that debate only invite their own destruction…hey have a happy 4th of July….

  • I have no idea what it means to “fight Islamofascism,” but yes, my point is that extremists might resemble each other, just wave different flags. One way for you to “fight Islamofascism” would be to make sure you are not another side of the same coin.

    As for inviting our own destruction, again, I’m not sure what you mean. If I support Bush and he makes strategic mistakes in the fight against terror, am I inviting my own destruction? Or do I invite my own destruction by supporting those who think Bush is making mistakes and would take the US in a different direction where the fight remains but is played out differently?

    It’s a little like the discussion you’re having with Shy Guy. In that discussion, he’s the extremist and won’t budge, while you’re the middle and find yourself very comfortable with that. Do you want to be like him or do you want to be a Jew who completely abdicated his heritage? Neither. You want to be in the middle because it makes sense.

  • Hey did you have a nice 4th of July?… Islamofacism is all muslims who adhere to the concept of jihad and that Jews are pigs and monkeys. It includes al-queda and all thier wonnabees…actually, Islam is not a religion of peace it is a religion of submission…their own submission and the submission of all others to their warped 7th century tribal value system.

    Insofar as inviting your own distruction (being in the middle) was not that the position taken by many German Jews in the 1930’s?.. They did not take the extreme position of fighting the Nazi but instead kept hoping that the civilized Germans (that is also an oxymoron) would come to their senses and stop the Nazis. This did not happen. Those Jews invited their own destruction by not taking an extremist position against the Nazis and fighting them tooth and nail… By the way, extremism in the defence of ethical and moral concepts is a good thing.

    I would posit that we are both correct…sometimes the middle is ok but othertimes (especially in today’s clash of civilizations) it is not.

  • Marvin–
    I would not agree that you are looney. But I would say that in the interest of making a point, you over-state your position, for example taking a small part of Islam that is being extremely anti-semetic and generalizing it to all of Islam. Another point is that true Nazis were only about 15% of the German population, and only received about 35% of the highly fragmented vote in 1932. Many of the Nazi supporters were simply anti-communist. (We know that even Jewish businessment voted for them). Since there was no majority of the middle in Germany at that time, the leadership went to the Nazi Party. I think that is the point of the original article. If more clear thinkers were comfortable in the uneven balance of the middle, it would stabilize the discussion from either end of the spectrum and allow true dialogue between both sides to be possible.