Joining the Club: A History of Jews and Yale


>>Joan Weeks: On behalf of all
my colleagues in the African and Middle Eastern Division, I’d like to extend a very
warm welcome to everyone. I’m Joan Weeks. I’m the assistant
chief of the division, and we are very pleased to present today’s
program cosponsored by the Jewish Genealogy
Society of Greater Washington in celebration of Jewish
American Heritage Month. However, before we start today’s
program, Joining the Club, A History of Jews in Yale and Sharon Horowitz introduces
our speaker, Dan Oren, I’d like to give you just a
brief overview of our division and its resources in the
hopes that you’ll come back and use our collections. We have just moved
our reading room to the beautiful
Northeast Pavilion, and I’d like to invite you
to come on a brief tour of the reading room
after the program. All you need to do is go
through the little corridor into the back area and
up to the second floor, and you’ll see our
magnificent new reading room. The AMED Division is custodial, which means that we house the
books in the reading room, you can access those books. We have three sections that
build and serve the collections to researchers from
around the world. We cover over 78 countries and
more than two dozen languages. The Africa section
includes countries of all Sub-Saharan Africa. The section continues to
advise and collaborate in building the collections through the Nairobi
overseas offices, as well as provide references
and maintain liaisons with other research and
teaching institutions in the United States and abroad. The Near East section covers
all of the Arab countries, including North Africa and
the Middle East, Turkey, Turkic Central Asia, Iran, Afghanistan, Armenia
and Georgia. And the Hebraic section
is responsible for Judaic and Hebraic worldwide. And I’ll Sharon tell you a
bit more about that section. And we invite you
to connect with us through our Four Corners
blog and Facebook. Now I’d like to invite
Sharon Horowitz to the podium to give you more details
about the Hebraic section, introduce the president of
the Jewish Genealogy Society and introduce the speaker. Thank you. Sharon. [ Applause ]>>Sharon Horowitz: Thanks Joan. I’m, as you heard, I’m Sharon
Horowitz, reference librarian in the Hebraic section. Before I introduce today’s
speaker, I’d like to call on Ms. Sheila Wexler, president
of the Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington and a
cosponsor of today’s program to say a few words
about the society.>>Sheila Wexler:
Thank you, Sharon. We are very pleased to be here
today, and we’re very pleased to be a sponsor of
this great event. It is something we do every
year, and we have come up with some wonderful speakers. Let me mention something
about JGSGW. I know that’s a mouthful,
but it’s a little shorter than the full name of
Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington. We encompass the DC, Northern
Virginia and suburban Maryland. We have been in existence
for close to 39 years. We currently have
about 328 members. And we are here to encourage
people to do genealogy, specifically on their
Jewish roots. We also educate. We do presentations in addition
to our monthly meetings, and we go out and speak
to organizations who want to know more about
what it is like. Tracing Jewish roots
is very different than tracing non-Jewish roots. There are some techniques
and things that are certainly the same. We all look at census
records, and we all, you know, look at the birth
and vital statistics. But we’re also interested
in a lot of things like immigration
and ships’ records. We’re also tasked with trying to read things in
foreign languages. My husband, who’s
not Jewish, you know, I traipse through many
a New England cemetery, and everything’s in English. Even back six generations
and seven. And if we jump the
pond, we’re jumping to an English-speaking country. So, we’re tasked with figuring
out how we read Cyrillic, how we read Yiddish that’s
written in Hebrew characters. How we are reading
all these languages. How we are looking for records that many people say they don’t
exist anymore except days don’t go buy when new things aren’t
being turned up somewhere. And so we have a lot of sources
online and also where you have to go to the location itself. We do not have those holdings. We are not the ones who take
those, but we are the ones who give you help through
our mavens and our educators to figure out where you
go to find these records. What do you do? Where do you start? How do you put together
a research plan? What are you looking for? When we met Dan last summer,
I believe it was in Warsaw, Poland, and we had 36 of members
from JGSGW who went to Warsaw for the conference
that was there. I see several of the people here
today who were there with us. It was an amazing trip. We had amazing speakers,
and that’s when we knew that Dan just had to be not
only one of our program speakers but also he was an
excellent choice for us today. So at this point, I’m going
to turn it over to Sharon, there you are, you’re
hiding out. Thank you.>>Sharon Horowitz: Thank you. Thanks, Sheila. Okay, let me tell you the
Hebraic section considers itself to have begun in 1912 when we
received a gift of 10,000 books and pamphlets assembled by
Ephraim Deinard and purchased for us by the New York Jewish
Philanthropist Jacob Schiff. From those humble beginnings,
our collections have grown to around 250,000 items. Our holdings are in Hebrew,
Yiddish, Ladino, Judeo-Persian, and other Hebraic
script languages. And the Hebraic section also
includes an important collection of books in Ge’ez,
Amharic and Tigrinya, which are the languages of
Ethiopia past and present. Two of our missions
in this division are to publicize our collections and to bring people
into the library. And one way we accomplish
the second goal is by hosting lectures
and by having programs such as the one we’re
having here today. If you would like to
be on our email list, Facebook is not the only way
to find out about our programs. If you just want to get an email
from us in advance of a program, so then see me afterwards and I can add your
name to our email list. And now, a word about
our speaker. Dr. Dan Oren is an
associate professor of psychiatry at
Yale University. He has worked for 30
years as a psychiatrist and a faculty member at Yale, and he is a former
research fellow at the National Institute
of Mental Health. Dr. Oren’s other books
are How to Beat Jetlag, a practical guide for air
travelers and The Wedding Photo. The latter is a collection of genealogical adventure
hunting stories. He is an author or co-author of
numerous scientific articles, and his scientific interests
center on the mechanisms of lights, antidepressant
effects in treating seasonal
effective disorder. As far as today’s book, joining
the club, A History of Jews in Yale, I want to say
that a recurring theme of American history is
the tension between ethnic and racial minorities
and majorities. For the past century, America’s
universities have witnessed these tensions up close. More than 100 years
ago, deans at Yale and other elite universities
wrestled with the question of how many Jews deserved
college admission and what kind of Jews they were seeking. As one reviewer pointed out, most historians find
it difficult to obtain primary materials
documenting prejudice, primary source materials,
documenting prejudice. Dr. Oren has, therefore,
used oral history obtained by interviews to
create his story of Yale’s discriminatory
practice against Jewish students and faculty from 1701
until the mid-1800s. I also want to say that Dr.
Oren’s books are for sale in the back of the room,
and he has graciously agreed to sign any books for
anyone that wants. And now, please join me
in welcoming Dr. Dan Oren. [ Applause ]>>Dan A. Oren: Thank you for
the very kind introduction, and it’s really a
privilege to be here at the Library of Congress. It takes me back to when I
was working on this book many, many years ago, and I
first, for one of the part of the book I came to
this library to learn about Judah P. Benjamin and
other records that were here and just walking
into the building that first time is a memory
that I will always have. So I’m grateful to
be invited back here to share this material today. So I do thank the Library of
Congress and the Hebraic section of the African and Middle
Eastern Division and Joan Weeks and Sharon Horowitz
in particular for your kind invitation to mark
Jewish American Heritage Month with this talk. I also thank, and let me
go to the first slide. I also thank the
Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington, Mary
Jane Roth and Sheila Wexler, for your support of
this program as well. Sheila and I were talking
before the session began just about how research is done. And before I get to the
formal talk, I’ll just share with you briefly how I
began to work on this. A long time ago in 1976, the
bicentennial year, I was young. I didn’t have a beard. I had a full head of hair. I was 17-years-old and
a young student at Yale. And at that point in my life,
from my high school education, I had a really solid high
school education in Milwaukee, so I knew a lot about
American history. I had a good Sunday school
and Hebrew school education and knew a lot about
Jewish history in general. But it was the bicentennial
year, and I realized that I knew virtually nothing about American and
Jewish history. That fall, fall of ’76, there was a one-time course
being offered at Yale, again, bicentennial fever was
in the air, on the topic of American Jewish history
and I want to pay my honors to the late Lloyd Gartner
who was the professor of that course, the
teacher of that course, who came up to Yale
every Thursday afternoon. And the assignment for that
course, you know, besides coming to class, was one assignment
for the whole grade, which was to write a term paper
on any subject of our choice in American Jewish
history with one caveat. And this goes to
[inaudible] and his research, he said that it had to be based on primary sources,
original documents. It wasn’t enough just to
go and read the literature. Yes, one had to read
the literature. But one had to get in touch
with the primary sources. So that led me not just
to do oral interviews, which I did as many as I could, but also go through the
primary records where available. And in some cases, there were
primary records available that were fascinating. And it became a term paper. And my former colleague
and teacher at NIMH, Norm Rosenthal is here. Tom Wear [phonetic], what
a treat to see you as well. And also, Tommy, a Yale grad. As sometimes happens with me,
an interest became an obsession. So the term paper eventually
became a senior paper, and the only way to eventually
get it out of my system was to turn it into a book, and that’s what I’m
sharing here today. I will pay one other
respect at the beginning to Professor George Pierson. Was he ever your professor, Tom? He was the chair of the
history department probably when you were at Yale. George Wilson Pierson
was a descendant of the first president of Yale
University, Abraham Pierson. He was probably as blue of
blood as exists in this country. Academic royalty and human
royalty, almost, if you will. And when I was ready to, when I had done the first
100-page draft of the book, I took the manuscript
to him, and I asked him because I knew the
university historian needed to read this before, you
know, I tried to publish it. By that point, he was retired, he was an emeritus
professor in his 80s. I was an undergraduate. He certainly would have had
every right in the world to say he had better
things to do with his time. But he was very courteous,
and he took the, at the end of that
academic year, he took the manuscript
home with him for the summer to
read through it. It was a 100-page
manuscript at the time. And at the end of the summer,
he took the whole summer for it, and at the end of the summer
he sent me back a 10-age single spaced typed response
to it where he went through line-by-line,
you know, challenging me on every other thing
that I was saying. Not necessarily saying that I
was wrong, but he was saying, have you thought about this? How do you know that? Can you document that? And that was such a, and it
was absolutely the right thing to do, I mean for hose of
us who have tried to publish and have published
scientific papers, we get it in peer review. This is the very
best peer review. And I think, any teacher
who gives their students, the people they work
with, criticism, if it is constructive, it
is the most valuable thing in the world. So I praise George
Pierson for all that, for all the mistakes the he
helped me avoid along the way. And any mistakes that I share
today are mine and not his. So, let me begin. When one’s talking about a
subject that connects to Yale and to Jews, inevitably,
right or wrong, people will go back
to the Yale seal. The center of the Yale center
has the Hebrew words Urim v’Thummim, and I show this
slide in this kind of a talk because it allows me to say
that before there were Jews in America, Jews
were part of America. And that’s represented
in part by this seal. Before even the United
States was founded, Jews and their ideals were
part of the American ideal. Urim v’Thummim are the words you
can translate them as was done in the seal, light in
truth looks at Veritas. It happened to come from
the exact middle verse of the Hebrew Bible. So it’s a clue to the
person looking at this seal that this book here is a Bible,
at least it was at the center of the Yale education when it
was founded, and it’s a reminder of the Judeo Christian
origins to Yale, to Connecticut where it was founded
and to the nation. Those Judeo Christian origins,
whatever status they are today, the origins are very real. Obviously, Judaism and Christianity are two
very different religions with critical theological
differences, yet they have common origins,
and as I’ll come back to later in the talk, in some ways
some common outcomes. For the first Western settlers
in what would become New England and later the Northeast of
the United States of America, Judeo Christian is a
fine defining term. And I realize that leaves
out the Native Americans who were here already. But those Puritans
who first settled, as they called themselves,
they were very much Christian. They were also Hebreophiles
[phonetic]. An example of this is Benjamin
Franklin’s suggested design for the great seal
of the United States. In this picture which, a
design which he proposed and submitted wasn’t
approved as we know. It shows Moses leading
the Israelites after having crossed
the Red Sea from Egypt. So why was this part
of America’s founding? Let’s go back to the Yale seal. Well, as I mentioned, the Connecticut area’s Puritan
founders, and this included up in Massachusetts, the first
Puritans who settled into US, what would become the
US, they saw themselves as the spiritual successors
to the ancient Hebrews. They saw themselves as
having experienced an exodus from England to their
new promised land in the American colonies. They even called their earlier
colonial laws a mosaic code. The Yale seal is testimony
to the theological respect that America’s Puritan founders
had for the ancient Hebrews. They didn’t know any Hebrews, but they had tremendous
respect for them. I went through, about then years
ago, I went to the Yale archives and tried to find the
first surviving example of the Yale seal. And Yale was founded in 1701. To the best of our knowledge,
a seal wasn’t started, wasn’t used until about 1722. This is the first
surviving seal, the oldest surviving Yale seal. The Diploma of Benjamin
Woodbridge, who was graduated in 1740. And as they used to do in those
days at the great universities and colleges of the world,
the seal wouldn’t be stamped. You didn’t have a rubber stamp. You didn’t have a clamp stamp. You would pour wax on a ribbon
and then press the seal. And this, Woodridge’s diploma. If you do closeup, it’s
not in good shape anymore. But with very careful
eyes, and it looks better if you see the real thing,
you can actually still make out the center of the Yale
shield, and take my word, you can make out the
letters of the Hebrew, the Urim v’Thummim surrounded
by the Latin looks at Veritas. Many people think
that the Hebrew on this Yale seal dates back to
Yale’s president Ezra Stiles. It’s a common myth. I want to quickly
disabuse you of that myth. Stiles was not president
until 1778. I’ve just showed you
a diploma from 1740 where that seal was being used. Now why do people
associate Stiles with the Yale seal
and with Hebrew? Well, if you, he
was a Hebreophile. If you look closely at
this painting of his own by Yale University,
one of the books on his bookshelf is a Hebrew
book, a [inaudible] discussion about by [inaudible] Ibn Ezra. He was friends with
Rabbi Carregal, a famous rabbi out of Newport. Stiles made the students
at Yale study Hebrew for at least a year or two. And that continued throughout
his tenure, and after them, the students pushed
that requirement out. It was still on. But if you look at
this painting, if you look at that
symbol in the upper left in the closeup here,
right in the middle again, it’s a little hard to read from
the screen, but at the center of the disk that’s
right behind Stiles and the painting are the
four letters yud-hey-vav-hey, the Hebrew, the tetragrammaton,
the four-letter unpronounceable, unknowable word of
the name of God. So it represents, you
know, styles like all of Yale’s first presidents
was a minister. Yale was very much a
theologically-oriented school. It was a congregationalist
school, although non-congregationalists
were also welcome at the school. If you look at Stiles’
own diplomas, so this, I have not found yet
his bachelor’s diploma. It may be that his
bachelor’s diploma still exists in his family’s archives
somewhere in the country. But the family donated his
master’s degree from 1749. Here, one can very clearly
see in the Hebrew letters in the middle looks at Veritas. So that clearly when he
received his master’s degree, it was already in regular use. So, what was Yale about
in its founding years? Where did, you know,
how did it work? Well, in Yale’s earliest years,
Yale College was intended to mold the students who would
one day lead not just the church but also the public
via the civil state. And indeed, the first charter
of Yale specifically in 1701 when Yale was founded,
Connecticut gave Yale permission to exist in order
to train leaders for the church and civil state. In those days, social status
was a critical component of student life. For the college’s first
decades, students were ranked, and they were seated according to their fathers’
social positions. First rankings went to the
sons of prominent, as sons, by the way, that’s going to
persist for about 206 years. First rankings went to the sons
of prominent church leaders and prominent civil officials. Progeny of less illustrious
college educated men were placed in an intermediate position. And trailing the rosters were
the sons of ordinary farmers, merchants and artisans. I mention this because as
we see from news sources, I’ll come back to it,
the link between college and status is no less a
concern for some people. This ranking system
continued until the 1760s, from 1701 through the 1760s. And it’s no coincidence that in
the 1760s, the students demanded that the ranking system cease
and students were arranged in an order that we
still use to this day, alphabetical order
and like that. But this did not happen in a
vacuum because, as we know, America was becoming a
place where the fervor for democracy was growing. So what goes on, and this
is one central theme, what happens outside the
university affects the university and vice versa. Where did Jews fit in? We would do well to remember
that in the 18th century, there were very few Jews
in the colonies at all and then in the new nation. As late as 1790, there were only about 1,500 Jews among the
nearly 4 million Americans. That’s less than 1/20th of 1%. Barely visible. A few descendants of immigrant
Sephardic Jews entered Yale in the 18th century
and early 19th century. In the 19th century though, Yale was still very much a
Protestant Christian college. Jews were welcomed as
curiosities and as students as long as they attended the
required Protestant chapel services each day. And this slide shows the, this
is the frontis [phonetic] piece from the main textbook of the
college in Yale’s first decade. So it’s called The Abridgement
of Christian Divinity. It reads, this textbook
leads us, so exactly and methodically compiled,
that it leads us as it were by the hand to the reading
of the holy scriptures, the ordering of common
places, the understanding of controversies, the clearing
of some cases of conscious by John Wollebius, a professor
in England, I’m sorry, Switzerland, the
University of Basel. This book was said to
be like mother’s milk to the students at Yale. Yale was not, it wasn’t all
about a Christian education. That was part of it, but it
was also to teach students all of the important secular
fields that were necessary to be a leader in the world. This was not true just at Yale. I’m going to show a
couple of the other seals of prominent universities
that had a Hebraic connection. This is the original
seal of Columbia College, originally King’s College. You can actually still
find this seal in a corner on their website somewhere. And you can see at the very top of the seal is the Hebrew
letters, again, yud-hey-vav-hey, the tetragrammaton, the
Hebrew name for God. So again, this was part of
a mission not unique to Yale but to many of the great, what became the great
colleges and universities. Learning about one’s
place in the cosmos and a relative God
was as important as any other kind of learning. Lower on this has two
other Hebrew words, ur-e-l [phonetic]
God is my light. The next seal is from
Dartmouth College. If you look there at the top
there are the two Hebrew words El Shaddai, God Almighty. So many of the colleges
were founded by deeply religious ministers
and their colleagues to try and develop the best leaders. And here, this is the quote
from the collegiate school as Yale was first called,
from its charter in 1701. The great objective was fitting
young men for service both in church and civil state. One of the early Sephardic
descendent Jewish students to attend Yale was a man
named Judah P. Benjamin. Benjamin was a role model for
what Yale education promised of educating future
leaders of the country in all different fields. Benjamin became famous,
eventually as the secretary of state and briefly
the secretary of war for the Confederacy during the
Civil War years He was a star student during his
two years at Yale. He was a champion in the
Undergraduate Debate Society. He was very popular, but
he was expelled from Yale after his sophomore year
under what remains a cloud of mystery to this day. And many have explored, and I don’t think anyone
has a definitive answer. However, there’s no evidence
at all that it’s related to his having been Jewish. Some researcher in the last
couple years have raised a very intriguing theory which is
that it may have related to homosexual activity that
was certainly unacceptable at the time. The official records refer
to him being expelled for ungentlemanly behavior. Again, it’s not clear,
there’s no key that tells us what exactly they
meant, but this is one theory. And it’s possible that it
may have been found out and then was swept under the rug
to protect both Benjamin’s name and the Yale name from ruin. Though expelled,
he was still held in high regard by
his classmates. He lived down in the South. In those states you have to
take a train to return home. And he came from a poor family,
and when his classmates heard that he was stranded halfway
from Yale down to his home without money to get home, his
classmates raised the funds to pay for the rest of
his train fare home. He later reported his
autobiographies and his comments to others that he
left because money ran out at home because of poverty. There’s no evidence
that that is the case. In fact, there is a letter that
he wrote to the Yale president after having been expelled
a few months later pleading to be allowed back into Yale. We don’t know what
the reply was, but we do know he
never returned. Later in the 19th century, when
German Jews started migrating in large numbers to the US
and formed Jewish communities, Yale’s occasional Jewish
students would be excused from mandatory chapel when they
attended religious services at the local synagogue. It was still a Christian
college, but there was a respect for Jewish students who
wish to express their faith in a different manner. Let me start with a slide
showing how this, the question of admissions became an issue. In the 1840s, Jews from
Germany began to immigrate in significant numbers to this
country due to restrictive laws and economic hardship
back in Germany. By the 1870s, the
numbers start to grow. If you can see from this
slide, this just looks at the population
in Connecticut. We’ll come to the
national population later. But in Connecticut, in 1877,
about 1,500 Jews were living in the state, making up
about a quarter percent of the population. By 1905, that grew to just
under 1% of the population. So you had a roughly,
it’s still a small number, but it’s a three-fold increase. And the German Jews, to
a significant degree, not universally, but to
a significant degree, they became successful
in American life. Many working in business
and as peddlers. And due to their
rapid economic rise, some people in this country
started to become fearful. This is not 1877, but
you may have thought that when young men marched in Charlottesville two years
ago chanting the Jews will not replace us, you may have
thought we were witnessing something new. But nativism is never new. It is recurrent and in
current America reemergent. I show this slide
because it’s evidence of what we think the beautiful
quotation from William Faulkner who famously wrote, the past is
not dead, it is not even past. By the 1870s, German Jews
were visible everywhere. And to a significant degree,
many of them, not saying all, but many were not well-mannered. They were not polite. As historian John Higham
has written about this era, and I quote, Not only were most
Jews more or less uncultivated, but there is considerable
evidence that many were loud, ostentatious and pushing. The Jew became identified as
the quintessential parvenu, glittering with conspicuous
and vulgar jewelry, lacking table manners,
attracting behavior by clamorous behavior and always
forcing his way into society that was above him, unquote. Hold on to those
behavioral descriptions, some of which may have
been based on truth, often applied stereotypically, but you may later
consider the possibility of similar stereotypes applied to other ethnic groups
in later generations. With the increasing numbers,
and I showed you, we’ll go back to this slide, you
can see between 1905 when in Connecticut Jews made
up about 1% of the population. Between 1905 and 1917,
they quintupled in size to about 5% proportion. And this was happening
throughout the East as Jews fleeing Russian
pogroms, Russian persecution and saw the promise
of America, which was, welcomed people throughout
the world. They came to America, and
they became more visible. And the nature of the
reception changed. People in Benjamin’s days had,
Jews had little difficulty in general becoming part of
all levels of American society. But by around the turn of
the century, in some places, exclusionary behavior began. This is an advertisement from
1906 from a Cape Cod hotel, the Menauhant Hotel, in
Menauhant mass it refers to all the beautiful reasons why
you should stay at that hotel. It’ll be open for the
season on June 16th, 1906. It has many things
make it delightful. And at the bottom we
have no Hebrew patronage. At some of the finer resorts,
the Jews were not welcome. Of course, not just Jews. In some places it would
be Italians, certainly, some other minorities as well. In 1907, this was an ad
placed in Life Magazine, the Life Magazine of this,
not an ad, a cartoon, and the caption read,
welcome to our city where Christian children
may not sing Christian songs in public schools. And if you’ll notice,
this version of the Statue of Liberty has a
very hooked nose. So it’s clearly intended as
an anti-Jewish sentiment. But what I’m also
sharing with you is that some issues are
not old and recur. And then Yale, this
is the old campus. This is the oldest
buildings at Yale. This is a photo of about 1895
shows a gentleman sitting along the old fence. Social classes began
to reemerge. People were seated
any way they wanted, but within the student tree, there was increasing
class consciousness, and education became secondary
among the student culture. It was really more becoming
prepped, if you will, for leadership in the world
and for taking over the world. And at Yale and throughout
the great universities of the nation, not just at Yale, the nature of education
was changing. Academics were forced to
compete with socialization. And religion was also secondary
for students and their faculty. Remember, in the 18th century,
the great universities, the religion was a core
part of the education. By the late 19th century, yes, there was mandatory
daily chapel, but it was, there was no other
mandatory religious education. It became by that
at time a place where people would be
competing to be in part of the most elite senior
societies an discreet societies. This is a picture of the
famous Skull and Bones, they have an expanded
building now. And typically, people like the
head of the student newspaper, the captain of the football
team, would be chosen. Some of the more famous
graduates from Yale who entered. The society, presidents
George Bush the elder and George Bush the younger. In today’s society,
Steven Mnuchin, our secretary of the treasury. There were several societies,
some had different foci. This is Scroll and Key, a
more intellectual society, and some of its most
distinguished graduates whose names are recognizable today
include Fareed Zakaria of CNN, Garry Trudeau from Doonesbury. And during this time,
enrollment at Yale and the other great colleges
increased, increased, increased. And it was only natural that
with the number of Jews rising in America, the number
of Jews attending Yale and its peer institutions
would raise as well. After all, then and now, college
was seen by many immigrant and middle class families as
a ticket out of the ghetto and a ticket to the
prosperity that America offered. And an elite college such
as Yale could offer a ticket that parents and children
hoped would lead them to highest social
circles of American life. College was relatively cheap for
the era, especially if one lived at home and didn’t have to pay
college room and board fees. And before the 1920s, virtually
any qualified student could gain admission to an elite
college, including Yale. You simply had to
work hard and apply. And in fact, for a place like
Yale, this is a photograph from the 1950s, but what it
shows was applicable certainly back in the 1920s. The Yale campus is in the
back of the photograph. This is the [inaudible]
right next to the old campus
I just showed you. This is Phelps Tower. And two blocks away was
the Jewish neighborhood, this is synagogue B’Nai Jacob. It was literally two
blocks from the campus. And of course, there were
many other minorities living in that area as well. But so it was easy for
students to live at home but go to college during the day. And especially in towns with
a sizable Jewish population, for New York and Columbia,
for Boston and Harvard, for New Haven and Yale,
Jewish students studied hard, and their parents urged
them to take advantage of the local opportunities. The timing of the
increased number of Jews entering college
paralleled the increase in Jews in America, rising to
about in Connecticut 6% of the Jewish population
by 1927. And soon different colleges
started to be concerned that perhaps there were too many
Jewish students, whether just because they were Jewish
or they weren’t fitting into the social pattern. Now, this is today, actually
last summer, this is a headline from the Wall Street Journal where the Justice
Department was reporting that, or was investigating that Harvard was hurting Asian
American admission prospects with personal ratings. Here, again, ripped form the
headlines back in September, the United States is right
now investigating Yale over a complaint of bias against
Asian American applicants. So some issues reoccurring
in different times. And indeed, just out
of this week’s news, we have here the college
admission scandal should prompt broader soul searching. This is a nationwide issue, and
we just read this week about, and even, you know, the Yale,
two weeks ago I was joking with some of my male
classmates that, you know, at least I could take some
pride in Yale because the person who had to bribe their way in
paid $1 million for their bribe. So Yale retains its dignity, and it’s still the most
expensive school that you have to pay a bribe to get into. But no, this week we
find out that a family from China paid $6 1/2 million to get their daughter
into Stanford. Stanford today, perhaps the most
selective college in America. So how did we get to
this place as a nation where college admissions
became so competitive. And this ties back to
the stories of Jews at Yale and elsewhere. It began with American Jews who
carefully observed the rewards that a university
education could bring a child and saw those chances even
higher at elite schools. And so because we need
to go back to that era, we can look again
at the numbers. Here, these are nationwide
numbers. In 1880, the US Jewish
population was less that 1%. By 1920, it had quintupled again
to over 3% of the population. And that’s a small number, but
in a place on the East Coast where there are a lot of
Jews, it could lead to higher and higher enrollments. And at Yale, people took notice. Students began to
find discrimination in the fraternities. At Yale in 1895, a fraternity
called Pi Lambda Phi, Pi Lamb is its nickname today. It’s not at Yale anymore,
but in that year in 1895, three Jewish students found that
they could not gain entrance to the Christian fraternities
at Yale, so they responded by founding a nonsectarian
fraternity. It happened to be
all Jewish members, but it was a nonsectarian
fraternity. And that was the first of
many either nonsectarian or Jewish fraternities that
were formed and still exist to the US by this day. Now, why weren’t the students
accepted socially as students? Well by the end of the
19th century, as I said, Yale and the elite
colleges were not primarily about book learning. For the faculty,
learning was critical. But for the students, it was
not so much book learning and religious faith but
about learning the codes of success in life. The soul of the university
and the soul of the nation had changed to
success, whatever that meant. For the stereotypical first
generation American Jewish students, still very much under
the spell of being the people of the book and encouraged
by their parents to achieve, college was largely
about book learning, not in the social world. As numbers rose, they
were not always wanted. Now I’d also like to
offer another perspective as to why else the Christian
fraternities have excluded Jews. It’s complicated, surely
ugly prejudices were part of the equation. But another part was what
fraternization entailed. One phenomena that the
fraternities exemplified was the building of close bonds
and friendships with a guy who might introduce you to his
sister whom you might marry. Unlike today’s era, where
in-marriage is the exception and intermarriage is the norm, except in the orthodox
communities, in the 1890s and through World War II,
it wouldn’t have made sense to build fraternal bonds that couldn’t be
consummated, so to speak. The established white
Anglo-Saxon largely Protestants on campus also didn’t appreciate
a larger number of students who they saw as grinds,
cheating and the use of purchased papers were
widespread among the elite students, and the menial labor
of writing papers was left to what they called the fruits,
the meatballs and the man of minority ethnic origins
and public school education. Enthusiastic intellectuals were
not necessarily grade grubbers, but they were equally despised. As one Yale graduate and later
professor Henry Seidel wrote, and I think he wrote
this tongue in cheek, but it illustrates a point. Quote, the generation from east of Europe was beginning
to come to college. Polish Jews with anemic faces on
which were set dirty spectacles, soft-eyed Italians
too alien to mix with an Anglo-Saxon community. Seam-faced Armenian boys
and now and then a Chinese. These, except the Chinese,
were all in college to learn how to live in America. Their mean was apologetic. You could see them watching
with envious curiosity, the courteous indifference
of the superior race. They took little
part in discussions, and they asked for no credit. Yet often, their more flexible
minds could be felt playing round and round the confident
Anglo-Saxons, admiring, skeptical, puzzling,
somewhat contemptuous. Occasionally there would be
a revelation of intellect or a hint of the future when some Chinese boy
caught off his guard and forgetting the convention
of the classroom which was to answer a question and then
sit down, would give a praxis of the entire lesson and perhaps
the previous one and the next, which only a French
intellectual could have equaled. Or some Russian Jewish
exile asked to comment on an Ibsen play
and losing control of his guarded intellect would
expound a social philosophy that made the class
squirm as if a blast of fire had scorched the seats of their comfortable
pants, unquote. The increasing presence
of a wealthy elite in the elite campuses of
America made the focus of student life turn to the propagation
of wealth and status. And colleges became more
like a private club. Early to notice an act on the
rising number of Jewish students who entered Yale because
with numbers they got higher with more Jews in New
Haven, more Jews in America, the numbers got higher, was
Frederick Scheetz Jones, the dean of Yale college
from 1909 to 1927. In the aftermath of World
War I and the nationalism that accompanied the
end of World War I, ethnic rivalries were
stirred worldwide. The US was not immune. In the US, Henry Ford was
actively propagating the protocols of the elders of Zion, a conspiracy accusing American
Jews of, or Jews of all sorts, of participating in a
plot to dominate the world by weakening American morals. This is from Ford’s newspaper, The Dearborn Independent,
May 22nd. He wrote the world, the international Jew
is the world’s problem. The national immigrant hostility
was successfully whipped up and Congress passed the
Immigration Act in 1921, restricting annual
immigration to 3% of the number of that nationality
residing in the US in 1910. Anti-immigrant sentiment
boiled over into action. At the college level,
the presence of Jews aroused concern. By 1918, Jewish enrollment
at City College of New York had increased
to almost 80%, and it had become stigmatized
as the Jewish university. NYU’s Jewish enrollment
reached 50%. Columbia’s reached 40%. The other school deans did not
want to see that happen to them. And we have from the Yale
archives, there are records from May 1918 of
Dean Jones meeting with the New England college
deans and warning them of the dangers of
being overrun by Jews. No college, they were
happy to have Jews. They liked having
bright students. They liked the diversity,
but there was a limit. Jones compiled statistics,
and these are largely based on his statistics and
some work that I did. We see that at Yale in
1989 to 1900 about 2% of the undergraduates
were Jewish. By 1916 to 1922, that number
had quadrupled to almost 10%. It became a cause of concern. I don’t expect you to read
this, but this is to show you, this is a letter from the
internal archives at Yale from the dean of Yale
admissions, Robert Nelson Corwin to the dean of Yale College. And by the way, this
was all written in the pre-Watergate era. So these are the kinds of
records that once existed that certainly in
the post-Watergate and the email era may not. But what the dean of
admissions writes to the dean of the college, he
writes: Dear Fred. The Yale trustees have asked
me to report at an early date on the number and status
of Jewish origin now in the undergraduate
schools and to discuss with them the advisability or
necessity of concerting measures to limit the numbers of
those race or religion to be admitted to college. The restrictive measures to
be enforced or to be enforced at other colleges which
draw from the same sources as we make serious consideration
of this imperative. End quote. By the end of the
month, Harvard announced that they would start
restricting admissions because of the high proportion
of Jewish students there. This is the New York Times
headline Friday, June 2nd, 1922. And it reads discrimination
against Jews suspected in new Harvard policy
on admission. The nationwide response
was explosive. This was before Facebook
or internets, but it went viral
in that era’s way. And in the same way that
surely all of us have talked at some point the
last several months about college admission
scandals currently, then everybody was talking
about limiting Jews. Harvard was excoriated by
the high-minded public, especially the Jews in
the public, for engaging in ugly behaviors
that they describe as reminiscent of
Tsarist Russia. It was the worst of
public relations nightmares for Harvard, and it was
all directed at Harvard. Other universities took
careful notice, including Yale. They wanted to limit their Jews, but they certainly didn’t
want any public embarrassment. So they took a different
approach. They announced that the
undergraduate colleges had become overcrowded, and
they simply didn’t have room for all the student
who were applying. So they did publicly announce
the commission of a committee on the limitation of numbers
that would try to figure out how to address this problem. What they didn’t announce
was that secretly, the committee had
a different name. The Committee on Limitation
of Numbers of Jews. It was a secret committee. Why was it secret? Well, I think it could
be argued that Yale, like most of its peer
institutions, was wrestling with what did it stand for? What were its goals? Was it a Christian school? Was it a research institution? Without a clear mission,
it could only proceed in a muddled way, and it had to keep its complex
reasoning and schemes secret. This limitation, and this is
I think an important thing that affects every student
applying to college today, this limitation that took
place in 1922 at Yale and elsewhere was what created
the selective admissions process that probably all of us
who applied to college and our children
have gone through, and it’s basically the
admissions process we know today. Yale instituted a highly
restrictive set of admissions. But I want to emphasize,
this was not a formal quota. They didn’t want to
say to themselves, we’re going to limit
the number of Jews. Instead, they created tools that
have the intended net effect of limiting Jewish enrollment. It was an informal quota
that would last for 40 years. How did they do it? They had scholarship grant
restrictions, so they made sure that if it was harder
to afford college, they would give fewer
scholarships to Jewish students. They gave fewer loans
to Jewish students. They instituted geographic
quotas to emphasize, to give more discretion
to taking students from all across the country. And they introduced
what was called in that era psychological tests. Today we know them as
the SATs and the ACTs. It was thought that these tests
would help differentiate the ideal student and leave out
Jews and also the small number of unwelcome Italians
and other minorities. And they started evaluating
people’s personality and character, all of which
are still done to this day for different origins. This was an even large
issue in the medical school at Yale and elsewhere. Just to show you in 1930, 3% of
the Hebrews, as they called them in the records, who
were admitted to the medical school
were Jewish. Non-Hebrews, non-foreigners,
I’m sorry, 3% of the Hebrews were admitted, 17% of the non-Hebrews
were admitted because there was the
fear that Jews would take up too much of the class. The irony at the
medical school was that it was a Jewish
physician, Milton Winternitz, the dean of the school
who instituted and ran the admissions process. But let’s return to the question
of collegiate admissions. For 40 years, from the early 20s through the early 1960s,
the quotas persisted. And then something happened. The Russians, always
the Russians. In October of 1957,
the Soviets fired, as you see in The New
York Times headline, a satellite, Sputnik,
into space. It was circling the globe, and
today Sputnik, and we just think of as trivia from the past from the first satellite
that was orbited. But for America in the late
1950s, it was terrifying. It was the thought,
you know, the US, and we had won World War II. We had had, you know, the
atomic bomb helped bring it to a quicker end than it
otherwise might have ended. But then the Soviets
had gotten a hold of an atomic bomb of their own. And now they were the
first in the space race. And there was a tremendous fear. And I do not exaggerate
when I use that word. There was a fear that we would
be overrun by the Soviets if we didn’t do better
for our education. The entire American way
of life was threatened. And this had an effect
in education. Look at this quotation right
after the Sputnik lunch in The New York Times. The chief physicist
of the US said, the nation is warned
to stress science. We face doom. That’s not an innocent word. We face doom unless youth
learn its importance. He wrote, unless future
generations appreciate the role of science in modern society
and understand the conditions under which science
thrives, he said, our way of life is I’m certain
doomed to rapid extinction. These were powerful
words across the country, and it reminded universities
of what their mission was, at least for this century,
which was to first educate. To really, to develop
leaders, not just of church and civil state but
also academically, the leaders for the country. Leonard Doob, who was a young
professor at Yale, was appointed by the Yale president
Whitney Griswold. Doob was a fascinating man,
but he chaired a committee that set an agenda
for admissions at Yale to number one require
education as the first criteria for admission, education
and commitment to learning. And things began to change. This is a photograph from the
early 60s showing from left to right William Sloane Coffin, who was the chaplain
at Yale at that time. Professor Paul Weiss, the
first Jewish professor, full Jewish professor
at Yale College. On the right is Richard Israel
who was a Hillel rabbi at Yale. And I show Weiss because
his presence at Yale, he was appointed
after World War II, he was the first full Jewish
professor at Yale College, and it was evidence that one
couldn’t have a great university without, at least in
America of that day, having, by discriminating
against Jewish faculty. Reverend William Sloane Coffin,
Jr., he would become famous for his antiracist
and antiwar activities in the following years. But he exemplified two critical
aspects of how conditions for Jews in America
changed during the 60s. First, he was a World
War II veteran of what would be called
the greatest generation. These men had fought
in World War II and physically risked their
lives against the evil and racist ideology
of Nazi Germany. They had risked their
lives at a time of a clear fight of
good versus evil. Now that they were coming into
age and positions of authority and power in America, their
ideals came to the fore. They were to significant
degrees champions of idealism and embarrassed by racial
and religious prejudice. The other important thing
to note about Coffin was that he was the chaplain
of Yale, a Protestant minister,
the religious head. He was one of the people
who advocated most strongly with the Yale administration
to open up admissions, not discriminate against Jews in
admission and to make students who were observant at Yale to
make them feel more comfortable at Yale so that they
wouldn’t have to be penalized for missing an exam
on the sabbath. So they’d have a place to find a
kosher meal if they needed one. And for Coffin, and this is
where I get back to the mission, for him being a good Christian
meant being a good supporter of other people of
faith as well. And this was a very
powerful argument, because when the secular
heads of Yale were arguing against him, he could say
that he represented the core. And soon afterwards, a kosher
kitchen was opened up at Yale. This is the ledger
from about 1962. Of the people on the ledger this
one name you might recognize, the second name signed for
meals was J. Lieberman, who was an undergraduate at Yale that became a famous
Senator Joseph Lieberman. By this era, the
presidents of the university, A. Whitney Griswold and
Kingman Brewster, Jr., Griswold in the 50s, I’m
sorry, Griswold in the 50s, Brewster in the 60s and 70s. They did not want the Yale of
their generation to be tarred with the prejudices of the past. In the university
records, we know that, we learn that Griswold
wanted Yale to be a model for intergroup relations
for the whole nation. So it wasn’t just when
there was tension. He said, how do we
deal with this? He wanted to create
an environment. He had a ideal that
Yale would be a place where one could take pride
in the harmony not tension. Brewster wanted Yale to be a
model for nondiscrimination. When Yale would start looking
for better students in response to Sputnik, he said go out and get the best students he
told his dean of admissions. Now, he didn’t, Brewster,
President Brewster didn’t say go out and recruit more
Jewish students, but Clark told me he
said, nobody told me to admit more Jews, but it
was inevitable by recruiting in more places and
emphasizing academics more that more Jews would
be entering Yale. The informal quota was stopped,
and the Jewish enrollment at Yale in the late 60s
through 80s effectively increased significantly. Not everybody was pleased. The dean of admissions,
Dean Clark, was invited in the early 60s
to make a personal presentation at the Yale Corporation. This was an unusual event. The dean addressed the Board of Trustees describing
the changing trends of admission policies
in the 60s. One trustee hemmed and
hawed throughout the report, and he attacked Clark’s
modern ideas. The trustee said, and I quote,
Let me get down to basics. You’re admitting an
entirely different kind of class than we’re used to. You’re admitting them
for a different purpose than training leaders, unquote. Dean Clark responded
that the America of the 1960s was different
from it had once been and that more national
leaders would be coming from more groups,
including women. The trustee was unsympathetic. He said, you’re talking
about Jews and public school
graduates as leaders. Look around you at
this Board of Trustees. These are America’s leaders. There are not public
school graduates here. There are no Jews here. Indeed, as late as
1964 the Board of Trustees was solidly
white, male and Protestant. But that would change too. The next year, William Horowitz,
Russian Jewish descent. This is Mr. Horowitz sitting
at the Board of Trustees, the corporation table
in Woodbridge Hall at the administrator’s center
of Yale, shows him at the table. He was elected to serve a
term as trustee of Yale. And in due course, Yale would
even have a Jewish president, Richard Levin, who was
successfully president from 1993 to 2013. And today’s president of Yale
is also an identifying Jew, Peter Salovey, the famous
rabbinical Saloveychik family. For the past 50 years, Yale
admissions has been guided by the following principles, which Brewster articulated
in 1967. One, Yale leaders, Yale
graduates are hoped to become leaders
in their generation. To become truly outstanding,
whatever they undertake. Two, the goal is
to seek students who will make the best use
of Yale’s opportunities, especially the faculty,
the library, the labs, but also the other
components of Yale from athletics to
music to theater. Three, Yale is seeking students
who will stretch their capacity. The zest and self-discipline,
quote for playing over his head in some aspect of life
who gives every ounce to do something superbly,
unquote. Four, Yale was seeking
students with moral concern and consideration for others. Amorality and selfishness
was not a way to get in. Five, variety for its
own sake is reasonable in making up a whole class. An excessively homogenous class
will not learn anywhere near as much from a class with
backgrounds and interests that are different
from each other. Six, convincing equality of
opportunity for admissions to Yale is a very
important consideration. It’s important for Yale’s
sake as well as for the sake of widespread confidence
in an open society. It’s the only way to assure
we’re drawing to us the people who give us the most promise
of being leaders in their time. And these principles guide
Yale admissions to this day. So let’s briefly
come to this day. So today there are
lawsuits, investigations, one against Harvard,
one against Yale. Harvard has a lawsuit. Yale doesn’t have a lawsuit,
but it’s being investigated by the Justice Department, both
for discrimination potentially against Asian Americans. This situation is current
events and not history, so many of the details
are quite private. Some of them I know
and can’t share, and frankly, most I don’t know. I’m not aware of
any evidence showing that Asians are being
discriminated against in any way for being Asian at Yale per se. But of course, we see that
the issues of what the soul of the university is, whom should a university serve
are very much issues today as they were a century ago. Jews in general have become an
economically successful group in America. Not all, but in general. Jews of conservative or reformer
reconstruction background or no affiliation are
generally not differentiable from their Christian classmates. 7 There aren’t so many Jews in
America proportionally anymore. Once it was over 3%. Today it’s probably under 2%. This is in part due to
intermarriage and in part due to other minorities
increasing in population. There are also more options
for great prestige as well. At one time, Harvard, Yale, Princeton were the
three big schools. Today, the ivy league as a
whole carries great prestige. But there are other prestigious
universities as well. For example, Stanford
today is thought to be the most selective
college in the nation. But as many have considered
the question has been raised as to whether Asian
Americans are the new Jews. I can tell you that
surely many Asian Americans and Asians are seeking
admission to Yale. If you walk across the Yale
campus on a typical day today, you will see buses
full of Asians of high school age arriving
in groups to tour the campus. None of the admissions criteria
that operate were designed to limit Asians, but they are
designed to limit homogeneity. And it is possible that may be
adversely affecting some Asians. Although I haven’t heard
yet of any testimony or credible evidence
that someone as an individual has
been discriminated because of Asian descent. We will know far more
about this in future years. And then let me return to
the other current event in college admissions
at Yale as elsewhere. As you’re surely well
familiar from the news media, there is a widespread
public scandal that became public this winter of wealthy people
bribing their way into America’s elite colleges. In some ways what they’re doing
was modeled on the examples at Yale and virtually all
private elite universities going back to the days
of their founding. Of admitting some students because of parental
privilege or wealth. There are certainly
known instances and plus unknown instances of multimillion dollar donations
being made to universities to inspire the admission
of specific children. Such instances are
usually not contracts. They’re not contractual
quid pro quos, but they are effectively
such, and they are at least transactional
in the terms that the university is strongly
hoping that the admission of the student will
prompt a major gift from a wealthy parent. It is naïve to
think otherwise. Elihu Yale was honored
by having his name become that of a world class university
by donating a small library. Imagine if we could do
that today, you know, donate a few bucks
and get a library. Such transactions fuel the
private university to this day. So, this year’s college scandal. Well, it’s a twist on
that theme, a clever and criminally-minded
ringleader is accused of developing a scheme where
he’d partner with partners at universities and with
parents and insiders at preeminent universities
across the country, a so-called tax deductible
donation would be made to the orchestrator’s charity. Some would help to pay the fixer to help the candidate prepare
a false application inflating their talents, and some would
be used by the ringleader to bribe local university
officials to collude in getting the candidates
falsely inflated application approved by the university
involved. At Yale it is said this involved
an Asian parent who ended up funneling almost a
half million dollars to the women’s soccer coach
to advocate for the acceptance of a daughter advertised as
a high school soccer star but who lacked those
credentials. The newspaper report from
Stanford this week tells us of the widespread nature of this
scandal with the Chinese parents who lived in Beijing and may
have thought they were just doing normal business,
paying $6 1/2 million to get their daughter
into Stanford. There are reports that
in this payment scandal, a disproportionate
number of Asians or Asian Americans are
disproportionately caught up. Perhaps they feel driven to get in because they see
no other way in. Those applying, however, now may
be experiencing parallel issues to which Jews at Yale faced and
Jews at other universities faced in the 1920s through the 1960s. So let me conclude and
go back to the Yale seal. The story of Yale admissions
and its relations with Jews and other ethnic groups is
a story that took place all across the country at many
of the best universities. Each with a different,
a unique local flavor but all sharing a common theme. In one era for Jews and
perhaps in another not for Asian Americans or perhaps
for Asian Americans as well. The question though, the
philosophical question that can be asked is
does this really matter? Whether in terms of
Jews, Asian Americans or for America in general. My first answer to the
question of does this matter is that the issue of discrimination
against Jews or any other group on the basis of religion
or ethnic background when specifically
targeting that ethnic group, it goes to the heart of what
is the soul of a university? For a private university,
that’s not necessarily wrong. A private institution can
be whatever it wants to be. It doesn’t necessarily have
a right to get federal money, but it has the right to
be what it wants to be. I would expect that a
private Catholic or Protestant or other Christian or Jewish
college might well wish to maintain its character. Would we expect Brigham Young to stop being a Mormon-centric
place? Or Georgetown to
deemphasize Catholicism or Yoshida University not to
focus on traditional Judaism? After all, if they have
a particular mission, why not let them
do it privately. It shouldn’t have to
hide that mission. What would be unethical,
however, is if they claim to be religiously
neutral institutions and then secretly
act differently. What about private universities
that use geographical quotas to be sure their
students are diverse? This is not necessarily
harmful, and this is an opinion, there may be some advantages. I think it is pretty
obvious that we live in a polarized society
today where people of different backgrounds have
great difficulties speaking with each other. Colleges, especially colleges
like Yale, like Harvard, like Princeton, that have what
are called residential colleges where students live
together and eat together and spend quality time together,
they offer ample opportunities for young people to
build relationships and genuine connections with
those of different backgrounds. A college with too much
homogeneity will not be able to accomplish that. And what also may make
this less of an issue today than a century ago is as I said, the world of great universities
is no longer Harvard, Yale and Princeton. Though I’m a Yale alum 40 years out from my undergraduate
experience, and I see a few other Yale
alums here in our group, I think I can say, and I’m
only speaking for myself, but I think I can say that one
success in life is not based on where one went to
college but on what one makes of the opportunities that
one encounters in life. I’m not naïve. Having a degree from a respected
university makes it easier to take the next
step in one’s life. But that pedigree
fades pretty quickly if one doesn’t have the
talent and personality to move forward successfully. Leaders in every field can
be found among the alumni of every university. And it’s not as if
one doesn’t get into Harvard one
will never succeed. How does this matter? I do think this raises
the question of the soul. What is the character
of a university? What is the mission
of a university? If there is a clear vision of
what the mission of a college is and what a university is, that will provide
unambiguous guidelines to carry out that vision and
to admit students. Their leaders will be able
to articulate those visions with moral clarity and
resounding authority. But we don’t live in that era. I showed these slides. When was the last time we’ve
seen a university president on the cover of Time Magazine? When is the last time? How many of you perhaps,
besides your own institution, know the names of more than
one other university president? The university presidents who were national leaders are
not national leaders anymore. And in fact, even if they
were to take the step of saying something of
national importance, how many of us would listen? How many people would listen,
and how many wouldn’t be fired by their board of
trustees the next week? He Yale seal I think
proclaims an underlying mission of light and truth. The great universities
of America were dedicated to the pursuit of truth and
the purpose of shedding light, so imparting knowledge. They, like Yale, were founded
to develop the future leaders of America with the
inspiration of light and truth. The story of Jews and
Yale, therefore, I believe, is the story of the pursuit
of light and truth colliding with the values of
a private club. When those values clashed,
truth was sacrificed as a silent informal, not
formal quota was established. Regarding Jews, the launch
of Sputnik by the Russians in ’57 scared America to its
core with the realization that if it did not promote
its academic enterprise, it risked losing all
to Russian domination. And in choosing to drop the
quotas that restricted Jews, the pursuit of light and
the pursuit of truth, which I think are also part of the American ideal,
returned to Yale. So thank you for your patience. [ Applause ]>>Sharon Horowitz: Dr. Oren has
agreed to take some questions, but before, let me just
say in the back of the room where my colleague, Dr.
Ann Brenner is standing, we have two carts in honor of
Jewish American Heritage Month, we have two carts of
very interesting books that we’re giving away. So I would direct you to
look there on your way out. And Dr. Oren’s book is
for sale in the alcove as you’re leaving this building,
as you’re leaving this hall. And if you could repeat the
questions for the video. Thank you.>>Dan A. Oren: Sure. Please.>>– read your book 25 years
ago when my son was [inaudible], and I was really pleased
it’s been republished. But in your book you also
deal somewhat with the faculty at Yale and the Jewish,
or limited Jewish faculty. I would like you to
speak to that a little. And the second question
is, if possible, we’ve dealt with the
undergraduate admissions, but I wonder how this
affected admission into the graduate
schools, law school, medical school, etcetera.>>Dan A. Oren: Sure,
that’s another lecture.>>I’m sorry.>>Dan A. Oren: It’s all right. But I will briefly say
that for, Yale College was in many ways the core of
what became a university. And the Christian mission
was central enough that until after World War II, there
was no Jew who was permitted to reach the level of full
professor at Yale College. There were a couple of assistant
professors, but Paul Weiss, a philosopher, was
appointed after the war. And in fact, if one goes to
the Yale archives, there are, when someone is appointed
to a faculty position, letters of recommendation
are solicited, both from outside the university
and within the university. And it was very clear
that after World War II, one of the professors wrote
how we are undertaking a great experiment to see if someone of his background
could work with us. And the other schools
of the university, the Christian core
was not so critical. So for example, in the graduate
school and in the medical school and the sciences, some
of the finest professors, a small number, but did
achieve great renown. In the medical school,
it was very interesting because a Jewish
man was the dean of the medical school
during the quota years. And he was a man named
Milton Winternitz. He was married to the
daughter of Thomas Watson, Alexander Graham Bell’s partner. So of great social
standing in America. And I think he was
very interested in protecting his position,
so he was very careful to make sure there was
a strict Jewish quota in the medical school at Yale. But I’d have to go
on at great length, but it’s in the book though.>>I know.>>Dan A. Oren: Please. Oh, I’m sorry.>>An uncle who I was very
close to was Yale ’27, and I was looking last night through his 25th
anniversary report in 1952. They would have been
admitted almost in 1922 when that directive
came out from the dean to limit the number of Jews. I did a very rough survey
based on last names, but I thought Jewish
names were above 4 or 5%, a little bit lower than the
percentage you came up with. Is that an aberration, or is that probably
right from that period?>>Dan A. Oren: Yeah, so
the numbers that I shared for those years in the 20s were
based on the dean’s counting. So the definition was that
if the dean count thought that they were a
Jew in his records, for that purpose I counted
them as if they were a Jew. It’s a, measuring
on the individual, measuring any individual number
and putting too much stock in an individual number
is very different, but I think we can learn a lot from seeing the trends
over the years. Some Jewish students would,
before coming to Yale, would change their names and
try and hide their background. Sometimes that was successful. Sometimes they couldn’t
hide, and they couldn’t –>>Well most of them
kept their Jewish names. That’s how I was
doing this survey. By contrast, I applied to
Harvard in 1952, and my class of ’56 I think was at least
20 to 25% Jewish, so maybe –>>Dan A. Oren: Harvard
was earlier than Yale in –>>And had more Jewish
professors, etcetera, etcetera.>>Dan A. Oren: Yeah. Yeah.>>And we had a Jewish
president as well.>>Dan A. Oren: Yeah. Sir.>>The background of this
question is I’m Yale ’72. I entered in ’68, so I’m
sort of the, not the tail end but the middle of all of this. I was at Trumbull
College, Trumbull College, the colleges has fellows. One of the fellows at Trumbull
was Inky Clark, Dean Clark. And we would sit around
and shoot the shit, because that’s what you
did with the fellows. And Clark was this
incredible engaging guy. And I remember sitting in the common room
drinking terrible coffee until 2 a.m. talking about all
this, and we were very aware in the late 60s, ’68, ’69, college [inaudible]
was the big thing. But we were very aware of
the changing composition of Jews in the class as well. And we would talk
about that with Inky. And the issue, which is
what leads to my question and whether you found anything
about this, is the perception of the undergraduate Jewish
population in ’68, ’69, was that there was a quota. It was like 15 to 18%. That it would always turn out that we would be
totally merit-based because of Brewster’s
principles. And we would end up with a
totally merit-based system of 15 to 17 or 18% Jews, not
higher, but not lower as well. And when we would talk,
we would push Inky on this over the terrible
coffee, and he would, who is this wonderful
candid guy, he would smile beatifically,
and shrug, and we would think go on to the next subject. Did you in the course of this,
and perhaps it’s in the book, which I haven’t read yet,
did you come across stuff that either rejects that or that
shows that indeed there were, if not quotas, limits that would
influence the decision process, much as the kind of issue we
have today with Asian students where the Harvard and Yale
say, well, we’re 20% Asian. And the answer is yes, and if you were truly
merit-based, you’d be 40% Asian.>>Dan A. Oren: So I can’t
give you the definitive answer that you’re looking for. I can only say, I haven’t
found any clear evidence, either from interviewing
people or from records that would support that anybody
was counting Jews for enrollment or that anybody was consciously
discriminating against Jews. Now, geographic quotas
persisted, and that does make it harder, if
most of the Jews of America are in the Northeast, it
does make it harder. I can’t, I entered
Yale in 1975 coming from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. If I think rationally about
it, I probably coming from, you know, the far reaches
of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which for most people at
Yale thinks, you know, the end of the universe, I
probably, whether I was Jewish or Chinese or Protestant
or Catholic, I probably had a better chance
of getting in than somebody of equal education
from New York. So geographical quotas
can have real effects without being discriminating
specifically against a particular group. Sir.>>Daddy was a young man. How many Yalees do we have here? How many Yalees remember
that song? Daddy was a young man,
he’ll be married soon. Right, okay. So he was class of 1935,
and he was from Englewood, New Jersey, public school. And I’ve always wondered
what it was like for him, whether he was the
quota that year or what it was like
for him at Yale. He told me a few
things about it. And I was class of 1965,
which was the first class which was more than
half public school. I didn’t count the number of
Jews, but I became friends with a lot of non-Jews actually because of the residential
college system. But what, could you say
something about admission to Yale in the early 1930s? I’ve always been curious.>>Dan A. Oren: Yeah,
just briefly, it was really a continuation
of the 20s. There was still an
informal 10% quota where they had the different
routes that were taken, and they would count
at the end of the year to see what they arrived, and it
usually came out intentionally to somewhere around 10%. One point that you raise
about student life, and it actually ties into
your question about faculty. Virtually, all the students
that I spoke with from that era, as far as in the classroom. I mean there was clearly
discrimination in admissions. But as students, they never felt
that they were discriminated against in the classroom. They always felt fairly
treated by their professors, and they felt they have
the best, you know, their education performance
was based on how they did. It wasn’t like, you know,
in Europe at that time, there were universities
where Jews would be forced to sit on a back bench. There was never anything
like that at Yale. One academic limitation,
this gets to your question, students who fantasized a career
as being an English professor, a literature professor,
in the prewar years were at a clear disadvantage because
the thought at that time was that to understand English well, you had to be well grounded
in the New Testament. And a Jew, the English
literature, and Jews would, you know, be well grounded
in the New Testament. So before World War II, Jewish
students who were interested in going into a career to
become an English professor, career and graduate
study in English, they were strongly
discouraged from applying. Now some of that was realistic,
and they said you can go, but you’re not going
to get a job anywhere. So they were being, in
other cases, they were, so Gene Rostow, who
became a famous dean of the Yale law school
and attorney, he was one of those people who
had his heart set on English, but then he ended up
having a great career in law because he was told that
there was no future in that. Please. Wherever
the microphone goes.>>Dan, I was admitted in 1959, and so I’ve learned a
few things about that. I was not Jewish. I was from Kentucky. And I was building rockets.>>Dan A. Oren: You were?>>Building rockets as
a high school student.>>Dan A. Oren: Wow. Wow.>>So it was a good
trifecta, I guess, apparently. But the other thing, the
thing I wanted to ask you, I was also something of an
athlete, and at my 50th reunion, the dean admissions from that
time said that there was a sort of informal rule that something
possibly as high as 50% of the students were
to be athletes. Have you looked into any aspect
of that and its implication?>>Dan A. Oren: No,
no, that’s fascinating. It’s certainly, in that era, that could have had very
significant implications. It’s less of an issue
today because today, at least for Jewish students,
they’re probably just as likely to be athletes as
non-Jewish students. The Asian Americans,
not so much yet. Because it’s the
immigrant experience. But that’s, I need
to learn more. Thank you. Sir. Okay, you’ve been waiting in the front row
and then you sir.>>Sharon Horowitz: Sorry,
okay, two more questions.>>Dan A. Oren: Okay, two more
questions and then we’re done.>>Sharon Horowitz: And
then if people want to talk with Dr. Oren afterwards,
that’s fine. But we’re going to have to
cut it off, so two more. Thank you.>>Fascinating. There’s one aspect you
haven’t touched on, and maybe you didn’t do
any research on that, but certainly say in
the past 20 or 30 years, the role of Israel has been
linked to Jewish students in various ways as a
sense of connection, as a sense that they should
take a particular stance as some sort of linkage. Did that come up at all, the role of Israel vis-à-vis
Jewish students in perceptions of non-Jewish students
and perceptions of Jewish students themselves?>>Dan A. Oren: So, that isn’t
something I studied extensively. I wanted for this talk I
focused mostly on admissions. It wasn’t an issue to a
large degree before 1948. There was no Israel, but
I will share one anecdote in that regard. There’s a wonderful
play that just finished in New York called the Lehman
Trilogy about the rise and fall of the Lehman brothers family
and their, and the fate of their firm in the financial
crash in the US in 2008. And there was one young member of the Lehman family was
a Jewish student at Yale in the early 20th century. And his family was exceptionally
wealthy at that time, and so he was not one of
the intensely studious kids. But some of the other Jewish
students tried to recruit him to participate in a Jewish
activist group on campus. There was no Israel but to try
and do things for the plight of Russian Jews, you
know, across the ocean. And his response to them was,
can’t we just have four years of freedom from Jewish
issues in college. So, that, I think the
whole question on Israel on the American campus today
and the issues it raises, it’s a very important question. But it’s beyond the scope
of today’s discussion. Yeah. Last question, sir.>>This can be a very broad
question, but I’ll try to narrow it down and
focus it just on Yale. Do you think the cost of going to Yale is prohibiting
many students who would otherwise be
qualified from not going?>>Dan A. Oren: Yeah, so I don’t
know what the latest cost is I think for, the cost of
Yale is very similar to most private school
universities across the country. It’s probably somewhere in
the neighborhood of $75,000 to $80,000 a year
tuition room and board. For me, the number
that sticks in my mind, I remember when I enrolled
as a freshman in 1975, it was $5,920 all encompassed. Tom, a few dollars
last in your day. Yeah. But so, what
you have in 44 years, the Yale tuition was probably
about $100 back in the 1920s. In 44 years, the cost of
Yale tuition, room and board, and for most of the private
universities in this country, has skyrocketed far, far
more than the, you know, inflation rate over
this entire period. So, may answer, I think that’s
a very fair question to ask us, not just the Yale, it’s for, especially if a parent is
thinking about sending a child to a state school
versus a private school. It’s a very fair question
to ask, and the answer will, in my mind the answer to a
significant degree depends on to what degree the
child will make use of the resources available
at the more expensive school. It’s not the right
answer for everyone. And as I’ve said, you know,
the, having gone to Yale or any specific college
is not going to determine where you end up in life. It’s not going to be the
number one factor determining where you end up in life. So, yeah, I’m sure that the cost of private universities is
keeping many people out. Now, at Yale and some
other universities, Yale does have what they call
a need blind admissions policy where they admit people without
respect to, without regard to financial background. And they commit to funding them
through loans or scholarships so that they can
afford to attend Yale. So there are steps that
are taken to relieve that burden, but it’s a burden. Yeah. thank you all very much. [ Applause ]

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *