Jewish Quota

A Jewish quota was a racial quota limiting the number of Jews in various establishments to a certain percentage. In particular, in the 19th and 20th centuries, some countries had Jewish quotas in higher education.

Jewish educational quotas could be statewide law or adopted only in certain institutions, often unofficially. The limitation took the form of total prohibition of Jewish students, or of limiting the number of Jewish students so that their share in the students' population would not be larger than their share in the general population. In some establishments, the Jewish quota placed a limit on growth rather than set a fixed level of participation to be achieved.

Jews who wanted an education used various ways to overcome this discrimination: bribing the authorities, changing their religion, or traveling to countries without such limitations. In Hungary, for example, 5,000 Jewish youngsters (including Edward Teller) left the country after the introduction of numerus clausus.

Certain private universities, most notably Harvard, introduced policies which effectively placed a quota on the number of Jews admitted to the university. According to historian David Oshinsky, on writing about Jonas Salk, "Most of the surrounding medical schools (Cornell, Columbia, Pennsylvania, and Yale) had rigid quotas in place. In 1935 Yale accepted 76 applicants from a pool of 501. About 200 of those applicants were Jewish and only five got in." He notes that Dean Milton Winternitz's instructions were remarkably precise: "Never admit more than five Jews, take only two Italian Catholics, and take no blacks at all." As a result, Oshinsky added, "Jonas Salk and hundreds like him" enrolled in New York University instead. Physicist and Nobel laureate Richard P. Feynman was turned away from Columbia College in the 1930s and went to MIT instead. See also Numerus clausus in the United States.