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A Jewish quota was a historical 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.[why?] 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 universities, notably McGill University, Université de Montréal and the University of Toronto, had longstanding quotas on the number of Jews admitted to the respective universities. McGill University's strict quota was the longest, being officially adopted in 1920 up until the late 1960s.
On 25 April 1933, the Nazi government introduced a 1.5 percent quota for new admissions of German Non-Aryans—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 per cent of German non-Aryan students. The law was supposedly enacted to avoid overcrowding schools and universities, which referred to German concerns at the time that large numbers of students would decrease the quality of higher education. At the beginning of 1933, about 0.76 percent of the German population was Jewish, but more than 3.6 percent of German university students were Jewish, this number having steadily declined from over 9 percent in the 1880s. 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.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-Aryans" (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 percent. Although the limits were not entirely enforced—women's quota stayed a bit above 10 percent 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 with the same qualification.S. 80ff. After two semesters, the admission limits were revoked, however, leaving in place the non-Aryan regulations.p. 178
Numerus Clausus Act was introduced in 1920, under the government of Pál Teleki. It was said that the ethnic rate of students must meet the ethnic rate of population. Limitations were relaxed in 1928. Racial criteria in admitting new students were removed and replaced by social criteria. Five categories were set up: civil servants, war veterans and army officers, small landowners and artisans, industrialists, and the merchant classes.
Numerus Clausus was not introduced by law, but it was adopted by students in the universities Cluj, Bucharest, Iasi and Cernauti.
Numerus Clausus was enacted in 1887, stating that the share of Jewish students should be no more than 10 percent in cities where Jews were allowed to live, 5 percent in other cities, and only 3 percent in Moscow and St. Petersburg. These limitations were removed in the spring of 1917 after the tsar's abdication during the early phase of the Russian revolution of 1917-1918 (the so-called February Revolution of 1917); later, in the late 1940s during the initial phase of the Cold War and the tide of the anti-"rootless cosmopolitan" campaign a de facto gross discrimination of Jewish applicants was reintroduced in many institutions of higher education in the Soviet Union until Perestroika.
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.
In 1940, the government of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia enacted the Decree on the Enrollment of Persons of Jewish Descent at the University, Secondary School, Teacher Training College and Other Vocational Schools which limited the proportion of Jewish students to the proportion of Jews in the total population.