This week, Dr. Elmer (Eliezer) Offenbacher of Jerusalem, Israel, passed away. Dr. Offenbacher, 95, merited to have correspondence with the Rebbe and an audience in 1951, and just a few short months ago, Rabbi Zusha Wolf, My Encounter’s lead Israel interviewer, arranged an interview with him.
Dr. Offenbacher was born in Germany in 1923. His family moved to Oklahoma in 1938, narrowly escaping the clutches of the Nazis. He studied and completed his doctorate in solid-state physics at the University of Pennsylvania, and in 1947, he co-founded AOJS, the Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists. Amongst AOJS aims’ was the reconciliation of contradictions between science and religion.
In December 1951, a few short months after the Rebbe assumed leadership of the Chabad movement, Elmer and his AOJS co-founder were invited to meet with the Rebbe. The meeting took place on December 24 at 12 o’clock pm, and lasted two hours. With the aid of notes he had written at the time, he recounted his audience in great depth to My Encounter’s Moshe Raichman, who conducted the interview.
At the audience, the Rebbe and the scientists discussed, amongst other matters, the question of how long each of the six days of creation were. The scientists argued, for the sake of reconciling evolutionary science with Torah, that the days of creation stretched for much longer than just 24 hours, whereas the Rebbe held firmly that the days were literal 24 hour periods, and that this fact had not been disproved by science.
During the course of the audience, the Rebbe agreed to help promote some of AOJS activities.
Elmer concluded by saying that even though his audience with the Rebbe took place so many years prior, it always remained one of the highlights of his life, and that he had tremendous respect for the Rebbe and Chabad.