Jews at Williams: Inclusion, Exclusion, and Class at a New England Liberal Arts College by Benjamin Aldes Wurgaft is both an interesting read and a source for dozens of fascinating anecdotes. Let’s spend a month or so going through it. Today is Day 13.

In this, at least, he exaggerates, for Williams was not as inhospitable to the most clubbable Jews as Candlestick makes it seem. Herbert H. Lehman (Williams 1899) was the first Jew to join a fraternity, namely Alpha Zeta Alpha, then a local organization but which later became the national Phi Gamma Delta. His sons and nephews would follow him into the organization decades later.

Again, just how antisemitic could Williams have been if Herbert H. Lehman’s wealthy family would choose to send him and if he, after thriving for four years, would choose to be such a generous donor?

It is curious that the Class of 1914 contributed so much to the establishment of multi-generational Jewish legacies at Williams. Almost half of the Jews of the Class of 1914 sent their sons on to Williams; as mentioned earlier, the Stone family became a truly prolific Williams legacy, with 10 members attending the college over the generations down to the graduating class of 2005.

This means that something of a mystery hovers over the 1910–14 period at Williams. The college was the site of one of the earliest anti-Jewish demonstrations, effectively anticipating far more effective attempts to diminish Jewish involvement in higher education in the decades to come—and yet the Jews of the Classes of 1913 and 1914, present for that protest, nevertheless produced legacies. Students who understood they were part of a group targeted for exclusion nevertheless managed to stick it out, remaining at the college and ultimately flourishing through their association with it.

I do not think that words like “curious” and “mystery” mean what Wurgaft thinks they mean. He keeps assuming that Williams was horribly antisemitic and is then surprised by how loyal Jewish alumni are. He needs to re-examine his assumptions. If Williams was, in fact, among the least antisemitic locations in the world from, say, 1900 to 1950, then the loyalty/generosity of Jewish Ephs from this era makes perfect sense.

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