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Encyclopaedia Judaica

7  Numerus clausus against the Jews in racist "USA"

How national policies wanted quotas according to the population proportion - and the effects
from: Numerus clausus; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971, vol. 12

presented by Michael Palomino (2007)
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Numerus clausus against Jews in the "USA"

[since 1881: Jewish mass immigration and Jewish quotas for professions]

<In the United States. In the United States mass immigration after 1881 resulted in the partial exclusion of Jews from many of the professions. There were very few Jews in the teaching profession before 1930. In 1920 there were 214 Jewish students in the medical schools of the State of New York; by 1940 there were only 108 in the same schools.

In its Annual Report in 1932, the American Jewish Committee was willing to accept the proposition that this exclusion was not entirely due to anti-Semitism but that there was "overcrowding in an already overcrowded profession" and that Jews needed to be redirected to other pursuits. This was a vain hope in an era when the opportunities for Jews in the professions were constantly decreasing, so that, for example, the proportion of Jews in veterinary medicine decreased from almost 12% to less than 2% between 1935 and 1946. The situation was somewhat better in dentistry, where by the mid-1930s about one-fifth of the students in the dental schools were Jews, but even here the leaders of the profession tried to keep Jews out. This trend of exclusion during most of the first half of the 20th century reached down into the undergraduate schools.

[1923: President Eliot of Harvard fails with official numerus clausus - nation-wide inofficial numerus clausus]

There was a famous incident in 1923 when President Eliot of Harvard advised that the enrollment of Jews should be limited at his school, in order to preserve the representative character of the leading academic institution of the United States. The committee that he appointed at Harvard was unanimous in opposing him and in insisting that places be given to applicants solely on the basis of merit.

Eliot was denounced by the American Federation of Labor, the Boston city council, and the legislature of the State of Massachusetts, which body threatened to remove the tax exemptions that Harvard enjoyed if a discriminatory police were followed.

Despite the storm an unofficial numerus clausus continued until after World War II in most of the major American colleges and universities.

[1931: Proportion law at Rutgers College - Jewish agencies obtain the abolition in 1932 - national investigations 1946 - Columbia University abolishing religion question mark on the application forms]

In 1931 Rutgers College admitted that it was limiting the number of Jews in order "to equalize the proportion" and to prevent the university from becoming denominational. In the spring of (col. 1269)

the following year the college authorities withdrew from this position, which had been vehemently attacked by local and national Jewish agencies. Nonetheless, at the end of a generation of struggle a B'nai B'rith survey in 1946 found that Jews indeed formed about 9% of a U.S. college population that was then slightly over two million, but that they were concentrated (77%) in 50 of the largest schools, and the best smaller schools were still discriminating against them. The proportion of Jews in the professional schools was only 7%, thus indicating that discrimination was still high.

The turning point came that year. Rabbi Stephen S. *Wise mounted an attack on Columbia University for practicing unofficial discrimination against Jews by petitioning the city council of the City of New York to withdraw its tax exemption. Columbia had no choice but to announce that the question of religion would no longer figure on any of its application forms.

[since 1946: booming universities]

For the flood of soldiers returning from World War II the national government was providing the funds with which to complete their education and the colleges and universities boomed in the next decade. Discrimination against Jews was hard to practice in an era when the educational institutions were seeking the maximum of government funds. In the post-World War II era, faculties were doubling and redoubling, and place was therefore available for Jews. The new postwar industries, especially electronics, required a whole new corps of technicians, and these jobs were staffed without regard to earlier exclusions.

By 1968 some opinions were being expressed that the marked presence of Jews everywhere in the professions and the academic world was "arousing some resentment, envy and discontent among less successful non-Jewish faculty members."

[1970ies: High Jewish proportions at "US" universities - the blacks want their proportion]

It was estimated that by 1971 Jews formed at least 10% of the faculties of all American institutions of higher learning, and that the more highly regarded a school the more nearly likely would it have a Jewish proportion in its faculty reaching 25-50%, the Harvard faculty being probably one third Jewish. Attacks on Jews in academic life and in the professions were mounted largely from within the Negro community, which was demanding place for itself consonant with its proportion in the total population (about 10%), regardless of the results of tests or other screening devices. In this demand Negroes have come into conflict with Jews who have found what contemporary sociologists have called the "meritocracy" useful and convenient. Blacks have succeeded in obtaining a quota of their own, perhaps to some extent at the expense of Jews, in many of the best colleges.

[AR.H.]> (col. 1270)


-- AJYB, passim
-- O. and M.F. Handlin, in: AJYB (1955), 75-77> (col. 1270)

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Encyclopaedia Judaica: Numerus clausus, vol.
                      12, col. 1269-1270
vergrössernEncyclopaedia Judaica: Numerus clausus, vol. 12, col. 1269-1270

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