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Jewish quota

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Jewish quota was a percentage that limited the number of Jews in various establishments. In particular, in 19th and 20th centuries some countries had Jewish quotas for higher education, a special case of Numerus clausus. These were an attempt to limit the influence of ethnic and/or religious Jews.

Jewish educational quotas could be state-wide 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. Countries with a history of anti-semitism, such as Germany and Hungary, had particularly strict quotas.

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 the dean'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 NYU instead.[1]

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. One American who fell victim to the Jewish quota was late physicist and Nobel laureate Richard P. Feynman, who was turned away from Columbia College in the 1930s and went to MIT instead.

Countries legislating limitations on the admission of Jewish students

  • Canada: in 1920-1940s, some universities, such as McGill University, had Jewish quotas.
  • Germany: On 25 April 1933, the Nazi government introduced a 1.5 quota for new admissions of German Non-Arians—i.e. essentially of German Jews—as core issue of a law claiming to generally limit the number of (Aryan and non-Aryan) students admitted to high-schools (höhere Schulen) and universities. In addition, high-schools and universities deemed to have more students than required for the professions for which they were training their students were required to reduce their student enrollment; doing so, they had to reach a maximum of 5% of German non-Aryan students. The law was supposedly enacted to avoid overcrowding schools and universities,[2] which referred to German concerns at the time that large numbers of students would decrease the quality of higher education. In the beginning of 1933, about 1% of the German population was Jewish,[3] but for several decades more than 1% of German students had been Jewish.[4] After 30 July, 1939, Jews were no longer permitted to attend German public schools at all, and the prior quota law was eliminated by a non-public regulation in January 1940.[5]p. 193
Apart from their strong and predominant anti-semitic agenda, the law and its subsequent regulations were temporarily indeed used to limit general university access, i.e. including "non-Arians" (i.e. non-Jews), as the name of the law implied. Starting 1934, a regulation limited the overall numbers of students admitted to German universities, and a special quota was introduced reducing women's admissions to a maximum of 10%. Although the limits were not entirely enforced—women's quota stayed a bit above of 10% mainly because a smaller percentage of men than women accepted their university admissions—, they made it for women approximately twice as hard to enter a university career than for men of the same qualification.[6]S. 80ff. After two semesters, the admission limits were revoked, however, leaving in place the anti-Aryan regulations.[5]p. 178
For additional information in German, see the article at the German Wikipedia


  1. Oshinsky, David M. Polio: An American Story, Oxford Univ. Press (2006)
  2. Gesetz gegen die Überfüllung deutscher Schulen und Hochschulen (RGBl 1933 I, S. 225) (original German text of the Law against the Overcrowding of German Schools and Universities, introduced in 1933)
    Erste Verordnung zur Durchführung des Gesetzes gegen die Überfüllung deutscher Schulen und Hochschulen (RGBl 1933 I, S. 226) (original German text of the First Regulation for the Implementation of the Law against the Overcrowding of German Schools and Universities, introduced in 1933)
  3. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (no date). Germany: Jewish Population in 1933. Holocaust Encyclopedia. (retrieved 27 February, 2010)
  4. Claudia Huerkamp (1993). Jüdische Akademikerinnen in Deutschland 1900-1938 (= Jewish academics in Germany 1900-1938). Geschichte und Gesellschaft, 19. Jg. (Heft 3), Rassenpolitik und Geschlechterpolitik im Nationalsozialismus, pp. 311-331. Publisher: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht (GmbH & Co. KG)
  5. 5.0 5.1 A. G. v. Olenhusen: Die "nichtarischen" Studenten an den deutschen Hochschulen (= The non-Aryan students at German universities). Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte, 14(1966), pp. 175-206. (German)
  6. Claudia Huerkamp (1996). Bildungsbürgerinnen. Frauen im Studium und in akademischen Berufen 1900-1945. (Reihe: Bürgertum, Band 10) ISBN: 3525356757
  7. See: Peter Tibor NAGY: The "numerus clausus" policy of anti-semitism or policy of higher education
  8. J. Karabel. The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. Mariner Books, 2006. ISBN 061877355X
    Getting In: the social logic of Ivy League admissions by Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker, 10 October 2005

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