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October 31, 1986 - Image 3

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-10-31

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

UP FRONT

A Growing Jewish
Presence At Harvard

A graduate, returning for the 350th
birthday celebration, finds pride and
strength on a campus that is now
about 40 percent Jewish.

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STUART MARKOFF

Special to the Jewish Times

A

s one who graduated
from Harvard in the
late 50's, at a time
when one did not publicize
one's Jewishness, I found that
returning to the campus for
the recent celebration of the
college's 350th birthday gave
me more of a feeling of being
"at home" than ever before.
The strong impression one
has is that the Jewish pres-
ence has moved front and
center.
This is most striking in the
reality that approximately 40
percent of today's student
body and faculty are Jewish,
a remarkable figure, par-
ticularly in light of the fact
that under Lawrence Lowell

"Harvard" in Hebrew: a long way
since the days of quotas.

as president in the 1920s,
Harvard operated under a
quota in its admissions policy.
During the three-day birth-
day celebration, I did meet an
officer in the Alumni Club of
Dayton, Ohio who vigorously
and without apology echoed
Lowell's fear that the "char-
acter" of Harvard is jeopar-
dized by the presence of too
many Jews. But the over-
whelming evidence is that
Jews are having a profound
and positive impact on the
nation's oldest university.
During the celebration, the
renovated Semitic Museum
hosted an elegant buffet for
the opening of a new exhibit
on "The Jewish Experience at
Harvard and Radcliffe." A
catalogue by the same name
was edited by Nitza Rosov-
sky, whose husband Henry,
the dean of arts and sciences,
turned down the presidency
of Yale to stay with Harvard's
new Core Curriculum (which
mandates knowledge of a
non-European culture, among

Stuart Markoff was
graduated from Harvard in
1959. He has served on the
Schools and Scholarship
Committee of the Harvard Club
of Minnesota for several years.

other extensions of the
General Education program
begun 40 years ago).
Pictures and text take you
from Harvard's required
Hebrew of the 1640s to Judah
Monis's long period of in-
structorship (1722-1760),
which seems to have required
his public baptism as. a Pro-
testant to get his appoint-
ment at the college. Only a
handful of Jewish young men
matriculated at Harvard well
into the "Golden Age" under
president Charles Elliot,
whose 40-year tenure ended in
1909. Elliot fought attempts
to restrict admissions by
racial quota, but Lowell won
out when the freshman class
of 1922 reached a level of 20
percent Jewish.
It's all documented in the
exhibit, including Lowell's
correspondence to the effect
that only a limited number of
Jews — 15 percent of the stu-
dent body — could be assim-
ilated into the college com-
munity at one time without
causing a "growth of anti-
Semitic feeling in the non-
Semitic body"
Thday, gratefully, the Jew-
ish presence is not merely in-
escapable; it has become the
cutting edge of the institu-
tion's power and depth, from
Nobel laureates on the facul-
ty to major contributors
among the alumni. Hillel
House, once a place of near
exile off Divinity Avenue in
the extreme northeast end of
the Harvard complex, has
high visibility and geograph-
ical centrality, between the
old Yard to the north and the
river undergraduate houses to
the south. In fact, Hillel,
which now occupies the old
quarters of the Iroquois Club
on Plympton Street, is such a
busy place that a search is
under way for more space, ac-
cording to its Rabbi Kamin-
sky, who is Reform. I saw at
least 120 men and 60 women
at the Orthodox services the
Friday night of the festivities,
mostly ages 18 to 25, and
another 80 people were at the
Reform services a floor below.
This level of activity occurred
two weeks before the fall term
began.
Ruth Masters, the mother
of Hillel House at Harvard
since 1957, says four services
go on at once on a typical
Shabbat. She observes that
Harvard subsidizes the
kosher meals, as well as
luncheons in the houses,
and daily services are held
throughout the term. Masters
hold a regular "Art of Kosher
Cooking" course, attended by

Continued

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