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jewish genealogy in Argentina



by S.M. Dubnow

A Project Gutenberg EBook


A salient feature of that gloomy era of counter-reforms was the endeavor of the Government to dislodge the Jews from the liberal professions, and, as a corollary, to bar them from the secondary and higher schools which were the training ground for these professions. What the Government had in view was to reduce the number of those "privileged" Jews, who, under the law passed in the time of Alexander II., had been rewarded for their completion of a course of studies in an institution of higher learning by the right of unrestricted residence throughout the Empire. The authorities now found it to their purpose to hamper the spread of education among the Jews rather than promote it. The highly-placed obscurantists contended that the Jewish students exerted an injurious influence upon their Christian comrades from the religious and moral point of view, while the political police [1] reported that the Jewish college men "are quick in joining the ranks of the revolutionary workers." The fear of educated Russian subjects who were not of the dominant faith was natural in a country in which Pobyedonostzev, the moving spirit of inner Russian politics, looked upon popular education in general as a destructive force, fraught with danger to throne and altar. There can be but little doubt that the previously-mentioned imperial "resolutions" [2] indicating the necessity of curtailing the number of Jews in the Russian educational establishments were inspired by the "Grand Inquisitor."

[Footnote 1: The secret police charged with tracking the followers of liberal and revolutionary tendencies.]

[Footnote 2: See p. 339_et seq_.]

Notwithstanding the opposition of the majority of the Pahlen Commission, whose members had not yet entirely discarded the enlightened traditions of the reign of Alexander II., the question was decided in accordance with the wishes of the Tzar. Here, too, as in the case of the "Temporary Rules," the Government was resolved to enact the new disabilities by the sovereign will of the emperor, without submitting them to the highest legislative body of the land, the Council of State, for fear that undesirable debates might arise in that august body concerning the expediency of putting an embargo on education. On December 5, 1886, the Tzar, acting on the suggestion of the Committee of Ministers, directed the Minister of Public Instruction, Dyelanov, to adopt measures for the limitation of the admission of Jews to the secondary and higher educational establishments.

For six long months the Minister, whose official duty was the promotion of education, was wavering between a number of schemes designed to restrict education among the Jews. Suggestions for such restrictions came from officials of the ministry and from superintendents of school districts. Some proposed to close the schools only to the children of the lower classes among the Jews; in which "the unsympathetic traits of the Jewish character" were particularly conspicuous. Others recommended a restrictive percentage for Jews in general, without any class discrimination. Still others pleaded for moderation lest excessive restriction in admission to Russian universities should force the Jewish youth to go to foreign universities and make them even "more dangerous," since they were bound to return to Russia with liberal notions concerning the political form of government.

At last, in July, 1887, the Minister of Public Instruction, acting on the above-mentioned imperial "resolution," published his two famous circulars limiting the admission of Jews to the universities and to secondary schools. The following norm was established: in the Pale of Settlement the Jews were to be admitted to the schools to the extent of ten per cent of the Christian school population; outside the Pale the norm was fixed at five per cent, and in the two capitals, St. Petersburg and Moscow, at three per cent. Although decreed before the very beginning of the new scholastic year, the percentage norm was nevertheless immediately applied in the case of the _gymnazia,_ the "Real schools," [1] and the universities. In the higher professional institutions, such as the technological, veterinarian, and agronomical schools, the restrictions had been, practised even before the promulgation of the circular, or were introduced immediately after it.

[Footnote 1: Or _Real Gymnazia_, see above, p. 163, n, 1.]

This was the genesis of the educational "percentage norm," the source of sorrow and tears for two generation of Russian Jews--both fathers and sons now having run the gauntlet. In the months of July and August of every year, thousands of Jewish children were knocking at the doors of the _gymnazia_ and universities, but only tens and hundreds obtained admission. In the towns of the Pale where the Jews form from thirty to eighty per cent of the total population, the admission, of Jewish pupils to the _gymnazia_ and "Real schools" was limited to ten per cent, so that the majority of Jewish children were deprived of a secondary education.

The position of the _gymnazium_ and "Real school" graduates who were unable to continue their studies in the institutions of higher learning was particularly tragic. Many of these unfortunates addressed personal appeals to the Minister of Public Instruction, Dyelanov, who, being good-natured, would, despite his reactionary proclivities, frequently sanction the admission of the petitioners over and above the school norm. But the majority of the young men, barred from the colleges, found themselves compelled to go abroad in search of education, and, being generally without means, suffered untold hardships.

Nevertheless, the cruel restrictions could not suppress the need for education in a people with an ancient culture. Those that had failed to gain admission to the _gymnazia_ completed the prescribed course of studies at home, under the guidance of private tutors or by private study, and afterwards presented themselves for examination for the "maturity certificate" [1] as "externs," braving all the difficulties of this thorny path. Having successfully passed their secondary course, they found again their way barred as soon as they wished to enter the universities, and the "martyrs of learning" had no choice left except to take up their pilgrim staff and travel abroad. Year in, year out, two processions of emigrants wended their way from Russia to the West: the one was travelling across the Atlantic, in search of bread and liberty; the other was headed towards Germany, Austria, England, and France, in search of a higher education. The former were driven from their homes by a peculiar _interdictio ignis et aquae_; the other--by an _interdictio scientiae_.

[Footnote 1: The name given in Russian (and German) to the diploma of a _gymnazium_.]

Having closed the avenues of higher education to the bulk of Russian Jewry, the Government now went a step further and contrived to dispossess even those Jews who had already managed to obtain a higher education, in spite of all difficulties. It was not satisfied with barring college-bred Jews from the civil service and an academic career, thus limiting the Jewish physicians and lawyers to private practice; it was anxious to restrict even this narrow field of activity still open to Jews. In view of the fact that the Jewish jurists had no chance to apply their knowledge in the civil service, and were entirely excluded from the bench, they naturally turned to the bar, with the result that they soon occupied a conspicuous place there, both quantitatively and qualitatively. Their success was a source of annoyance to the Russian anti-Semites, both those who hated the Jews on principle and those who did so selfishly, being themselves members of the bar. These enemies of Judaism called the attention of the Government to the large number of Jewish lawyers at the St. Petersburg bar--a circumstance due partly to the natural gravitation towards the administrative and legal center of the country, and partly to the fact that the admission of Jews to the bar met with less obstruction from the judicial authorities in the capital than in the provinces, where professional jealousy frequently stood in the way of the Jews.

The reactionary Minister of Justice, Manassein, managed to convince the Tzar that it was necessary to check the further admission of Jews to the bar. However, from diplomatic considerations, it was thought wiser to carry this restriction into effect not under an anti-Jewish flag, but rather as a general measure directed against all members of "non-Christian persuasions." The restriction was therefore extended to Mohammedans and the handful of privileged Karaites, [1] and the religious intolerance of the new measure was thus thrown into even bolder relief.

[Footnote 1: See on the Karaites, Vol. I, p. 318.]

On November, 1889, an imperial ukase decreed as follows:

  That, pending the enactment of a special law dealing with this   subject, the admission of public and private attorneys of   non-Christian denominations by the competent judicial institutions   and bar associations [1] shall not take place, except with the   permission of the Minister of Justice, on the recommendation of the   presidents of the above-mentioned institutions and associations.

[Footnote 1: "Public (literally, sworn) attorneys" are lawyers of academic standing admitted to the bar by the bar associations. "Private attorneys" are lawyers without educational qualifications who receive permission to practise from the "judicial institutions," i.e., the law courts. They are not members of the bar.]

It goes without saying that the Russian Minister of Justice made ample use of the right conferred upon him of denying admission to Jews as public and private attorneys. While readily sanctioning the admission of Mohammedans and Karaites, the Minister almost invariably refused to confirm the election of young Jewish barristers, however warmly they may have been recommended by the judicial institutions and bar associations. [1] In this way, many a talented Jewish jurist, who might have filled a university chair with distinction or might have attained brilliant success in the legal profession, was forced out of his path and deprived of an opportunity to serve his country by his labors and pursue a career for which he had fitted himself at the university. Instead, these derailed professionals went to swell the hosts of those who had been wronged and disinherited by the injustice of the law.

[Footnote 1: During the following five years, until 1895, not a single Jew received the sanction of the Minister.]

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