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The Chosen by Jerome Karabel

- Abstract

On November 21, 1925, Harvard and Yale played the 44th installment in their storied football rivalry. Though Yale was heavily favored, Harvard’s fierce defensive play held the visitors to a 0-0 tie. According to the Harvard Crimson, the home team had won “a scoreless victory.” Yet Harvard alumnus W.F. Williams, who had traveled from Greenwich, Connecticut to cheer on his alma mater, took no pleasure in the game. Twenty-four years had passed since his graduation, and he was bewildered by the school’s transformation. As he wrote in a letter to Harvard president Abbot Lawrence Lowell, describing his ordeal on that autumn Saturday: Being uncertain what [stadium] entrance to use, I stopped a boy, evidently a student, to ask directions—he was a Jew. Rounding the corner . . . I made enquiries from three other boys, also very evidently students—two Jews and a Negro, fraternizing. I was ushered to my seat at the game by a Jew, and another of the same “breed” followed me to my seat and required me to sign my ticket. . . . Shades of my New England parents that Harvard University should come to such a pass. [The Jews] are without doubt the Damned of God and the skunks of the human race. . . . Are the Overseers so lacking in genius that they can’t devise a way to bring Harvard back to the position it always held as a “white man’s” college? Far from being scandalized by the letter, Lowell was delighted. Since 1922, the Harvard president had been trying to impose a quota on the number of Jewish students admitted to the university. The testimonials of Williams and other disgruntled alumni strengthened his hand.

About the Author

Jonathan Kay is managing editor for comment at Canada’s National Post.