Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Jewish problems (2011) (arxiv.org)
120 points by replicant on Jan 18, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 95 comments



Posted last two times[1][2] one of these stories came around, comment applicable here:

As a preamble there most definitely existed anti-semitism in Soviet Union. I am a Russian living in the US with Jewish family in Russia. This is a throw away account.

With that said, stories of anti-semitism told by Russian Jews in US should not be taken at face value. These folks are subject to a very strong selection bias. Most of them came to the US as refugees who were recognized by the US State Department as being discriminated against for being Jewish in USSR/Russia. Secondly they have interest in maintaining the story anti-seminitism because it validates their narrative and could potentially help their relatives immigrate to the US.

Additionally many stories of anti-semitism that I heard were something a non-jew would experience as well but attributed to anti-semitism. As a personal example, I was at first denied admission to a specialized school in very late Soviet period. They eventually let me in because my mother found out that I had the highest score on the entrance exam of any one. Their excuse was that they had to let the kids who were in the paid summer program at the school first and now the class was full. A Jewish kid's parents would have been told they already have too many Jews in the advanced program. Both cases are just the admissions persons asking for a bribe.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4752047 [2] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5340553


In 1987 I and my friend from school went to Moscow to apply to MATI (Moscovskii Aviatsionno Technologicheskii Institut). I am Jewish, my friend Jewish as well. While in line to submit some additional paperwork, we were approached by an administrator, who walked us to the side, and frankly told us to take our documents somewhere else. As Jews, we would never be admitted to the Institut. no matter what.

We went to one of the more Jewish institutes: MIIT (Moskovskii Institut Zheleznodoroshnogo Transporta). The other Jewish place was Moskovskii Institute Stali i Splavov.


I know nothing of the parent or their experiences. Unfortunately, it fits a pattern. That could be coincidence in the case of this comment, but I think the overall pattern is worth pointing out:

A common response to reports of any kind of discrimination is to downplay them -- it's not as bad as people report, they are a little paranoid, exaggerating, spreading stories, etc. If you watch for the pattern you can see it happenning a lot.

It's good, old fashioned FUD[1]: It minimizes the current issue, and more importantly it creates a situation where there are doubts about the credibility any future reporters of discrimination and problems. Finally, it's easy, when it doesn't affect you, to say someone else's problems are no big deal, they're just exaggerating, etc. 'Comedy is you fall down a manhole; tragedy is I stub my toe'.

In my experience, the truth is the opposite of what the FUD says: Discrimination is vastly underplayed, not exaggerated. Think how often the story you read is about a practice that's gone on for years or decades, and you had no idea. The group facing discrimination has much less of a voice, they don't control the media and movies aren't made about their experiences, and they are intimidated into not speaking out (partly due to comments like the ones I'm criticizing: The majority will simply discredit and smear them anyway).

-----

I'll also add that the parent comment fits another pattern: It's all anecdote. It's all based on hypothesis, and subjective analysis and impressions with no real basis.

-----

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fear,_uncertainty_and_doubt


A large number of my friends who are jewish Russian immigrants. I literally only know one Eastern European gentile. He claims everyone wanted to leave the Soviet Union.

I think churches also sponsored Russian immigrants in the 80s and 90s.

Update: I found this site[1].

Both the tsarist Russian and Soviet governments placed restrictions on emigration. In 1885 the imperial Russian government passed a decree that prohibited all emigration except that of Poles and Jews, which explains the small numbers of non-Jewish Russians in the United States before World War I. By the early 1920s, the Bolshevik/communist-led Soviet government implemented further controls that effectively banned all emigration. As for the second-wave White Russian refugees who fled between 1920 and 1922, they were stripped of their citizenship in absentia and could never legally return home. This situation was the same for the post-World War II DPs, who were viewed as Nazi collaborators and traitors by the Soviet authorities.

In contrast, the fourth wave of Russian immigration that began in late 1969 was legal. It was formally limited to Jews, who were allowed to leave the Soviet Union for Israel as part of the agreements reached between the United States and the Soviet Union during the era of détente. In return for allowing Jews to leave, the United States and other western powers expanded the economic, cultural, and intellectual ties with their communist rival. Although Jews leaving the Soviet Union were only granted permission to go to Israel, many had the United States as their true goal; and by 1985 nearly 300,000 had reached the United States.

After 1985 the more liberal policy of the Soviet government under Mikhail Gorbachev allowed anyone to leave the Soviet Union, and thousands more Jewish and non-Jewish Russians immigrated to the United States. Because Russia is an independent country with a democratically elected government, newcomers cannot justify their claim to emigrate on the grounds of political or religious persecution. This has resulted in a slowing of Russian emigration during the last decade of the twentieth century.

[1] http://www.everyculture.com/multi/Pa-Sp/Russian-Americans.ht...

Immigration history is fascinating. I'm reading about the other groups here: http://www.everyculture.com/multi/Bu-Dr/index.html


Furthermore, when people are described as refugees from anti-Semitism, without going into specifics, this gives a very different impression to the public, than when they are described as people moving away due to the same kind of discrimination that Asian Americans face in university admissions.

It's the lack of direct comparisons, which in turn follows from the lack of specifics, that allows people to get an exaggerated sense of the extent of anti-Semitism.


"attributed to".

Reminds me of when I am in my car at a stop light and a man looks over at me. I always think "wow if I was a woman or if I was black I would think that that is the reason they are looking at me".


> I always think "wow if I was a woman or if I was black I would think that that is the reason they are looking at me".

This statement imagines what an imaginary person would be thinking, and implies that it represents the thinking of billions of people.

I wish my subjective imagination was so reliable. Think of all the time I could save studying facts, improving my analytical skills, and most of all, learning from and listening to other people who have different perspectives and experiences than I do. 'I imagine, therefore they are.'


Why the snark? What I said wasn't politically correct in some way? Use of stereotypes? Please elaborate.


My reasoning is what I said. But I agree, the snark was inappropriate. Sorry.


Instead you just use it to validate your extreme attractiveness, right? :) "I'm looking good today, check out everyone sneaking a peak at me!"


Well no because if a person turns their head to look they don't necessarily know in advance that the person is good looking! (It might be the car that I drive though...). Now of course if I was to do that with women it wouldn't be based on the car of course!


This is a well-known fact, actually.

My math teacher in Lithuania mentioned that back in his days (50-s) it was practically impossible for a non-Jewish student to get into any math- or physics-related faculty: Jewish families had a very strong multi-generational tradition of both in-school and additional education. He also said he was the only non-jewish in his group in Moscow State University that year.

So at some point it was decided to, ehm, discriminate jewish - they were supposed to be a minority in all the main universities/institutes, under 10%, I think, although this is not a precise number.

Note that I don't advocate anything or anyone, this is just the way it was.


Wouldn't that be called "affirmative action" in the US?


The differences:

In the US, they'd ask everyone the same questions, but have different standards for the results. The practice would not be secret, and so there would not be subterfuge of this scope (the plausible-deniability angle is gone). Finally, the practice would be used to boost the effective scores of the select less-qualified candidates, instead of damaging the scores of select more-qualified candidates. (This is not strictly a difference of terminology: in a competitive assessment affirmative action on a less-successful candidate would consistently crowd out candidates from the bottom end of the 'successful' range, whereas the Jewish questions would sabotage everyone who got them, including those who would otherwise be at the top of the field).


True, it's important, if ever a mechanism like this is applied, that it is made official and mandated by law. I don't agree that the system described works in a substantially different way from affirmative action, though, as you can consider the current admission tests to already include the "Jewish problems", for a number of points equivalent to the "score boosting" applied to the other candidates.

Most importantly, if things were like described by the GP, the intended effect is not to discriminate against an ethnic group, but balance its overwhelming predominance in a particular field. Which is precisely the objective of affirmative action.


How is "discriminating against a group" different from "balancing its overwhelming predominance in a particular field"? The dictionary definition of "discrimination" says there's no difference. Is the definition that says there is a difference some sort of a moral standard? What are the thresholds of that standard - at what point group members outdoing others warrants affirmative action and by how much the numbers of those members should be dwindled by affirmative action? Which groups should be punished by affirmative action - ethnic and gender, or is religion a legitimate target, what about height, family history, a preference to wear clothes of a certain color - whom is it OK to count and then hold to a higher standard to balance their overwhelming predominance?

Also - what cost should society pay in lost output due to the average ability of people allowed to enter certain occupations having been lowered by affirmative action (as it has to be if less capable candidates are admitted instead of more capable)?

Perhaps most interestingly - how much cost should a group supposedly "helped" by affirmative action pay for the dubious favor in (A) people being unable to successfully function at institutions who admitted them, not because of their abilities, but due to affirmative action and (B) perfectly capable people of the "helped" group being stigmatized because "everyone knows they only got to where they were due to affirmative action, and not due to their ability?"

(I guess you might notice that I'm not a huge fan of affirmative action, but if we could at least agree that there's no reasonable way to distinguish between "affirmative action" and "discrimination", that would be in itself awesome, even if we disagree about the merit of, well, that one thing with two names...)


> How is "discriminating against a group" different from "balancing its overwhelming predominance in a particular field"?

Since you ask, I'll repeat myself. Suppose you have lots of people applying for 100 slots in the university. Affirmative action at a US university designed to give you a quota of, say, 10% minorities could, in the worst case, crowd out qualified persons #91-100. "Jewish questions" deployed against highly qualified Jews in a Jewish-dominated field in Lithuania could have easily excluded most qualified persons in the range #1-100.

I really don't like affirmative action either, but it differs substantially in intent, technique, and impact. Considering them morally equivalent slights against the ideals of fairness and merit is a very narrow, black-and-white world view - and without abandoning the ideal of justice, I think it's important to see that there are many shades grays in this world, and some are much much darker than others.


I wasn't arguing with your analysis of the differences between asking different people different questions and asking everyone the same questions but then holding different people to different standards. I was only arguing that "discriminating against a group", taken literally, is equivalent to "balancing its overwhelming predominance in a particular field", taken literally. That is, I was arguing with that sentence, without assuming that these two names for what I claim are the same general thing are also names for two different discrimination methods (which are two different specific things as you pointed out.)

Regarding "intent, technique and impact" - I agree on technique and impact, intent is a thornier issue; certainly nobody ever instituted discrimination for reasons they proclaimed evil, it's always done in the name of "righting wrongs," and then real intent as opposed to proclaimed intent is very hard to establish. From my own point of view, at the gut level, some discriminators seem to act much more maliciously than others, but I'm not sure there's always a reasonable argument to support my gut feeling.


> a quota of, say, 10% minorities could, in the worst case, crowd out qualified persons #91-100

You're assuming #91-100 are better candidates than the minority candidates. I think the resasoning behind affirmative action is that #91-100 are worse students who just had access to far better resources and thus produced better quantitive results. I'd rather hire the minority candidates.


I'm sure your argument makes #95 feel much better.


How would they know they were #95?

It's not clear why failed applicants would automatically leap to the theory that they didn't get in because of affirmative action, rather than just assuming they weren't good enough. Competition for good academic institutions is generally stiff enough that this is the most likely reason anyway.


"It's not clear why failed applicants would automatically leap to the theory that they didn't get in because of affirmative action, rather than just assuming they weren't good enough."

Why wouldn't they? People generally look for an explanation of bad events that doesn't put the blame on themselves. Even better, if it defines a specific culprit and paints them as a villain. "I didn't get into X because they discriminated against me, those racist bastards" is therefore a very appealing narrative.


It's not designed to make #95 feel better. It's designed to make you feel bad about equating #95 to a guy who probably would have gotten shipped off to Siberia with all his family and many of his friends if Stalin had lived a few more years than he ended up doing.


What happens to minorities if they exceeded their "quota"? Do you put them back to their place?


I'm not a great fan of affirmative action either. Some of the things you say make perfect sense to me. I was only remarking that a similar mechanism exists today in the US and it is considered ethically valid.

As for the difference between AA and simple discrimination, the latter is usually intended to increase the power of the current dominant group, while affirmative action should act in the interest of a minority or disadvantaged group. The mechanisms are the same, it's the objective that's different. Much as the same substance or tool can be used to cure or to kill, it's the intention that matters.


If the intended effect was merely to balance its overwhelming predominance, sabotage in the exams is the most problematic way to do so, because of the way that it can efface the best talent in the group; diversity-quotas of some sort would damage the field less.

More broadly, though, if you think that this was "merely" about balance and that there was no anti-Semitic sentiment in academia in Soviet Lithuania in the 1950s, shortly after the "Rootless Cosmopolitan" campaign and squarely in the era of the "Doctors' Plot", then I may have a bridge to sell you.


This is relevant because employment discrimination law in the USA prohibits the use of any tests where certain protected racial categories score worse than the national average by a specific amount. Usually that amount is specifically that each protected race must achieve four fifths of the passing scores of any other group. (Yes, that is a vague and easily gamed standard. It was made up by lawyers in the Department of Justice, not by game theorists in the DoJ.)

The result in, for example, fire and police departments has been that all the tests, especially written tests, have been dumbed down so that 80% of everyone passes. That is automatically considered to fulfil the four fifths standard. Then candidates are chosen by political patronage or random selection.

The result is much worse average qualifications. If there were just a racial quota like US universities use, you could pick the top X% of people from each protected underperforming racial category but also the top people from each of the high performing categories. In the Jewish Problem and four-fifths scenario, you don't get the top people from the high performing category except by chance and with four-fifths not from the protected categories either.

The new, state of the art federal civil service exam written under the Carter administration was abandoned because protected racial groups did badly. the obvious solution of race norming was considered out of bounds because Republicans could demagogue against the practice. The entire civil service exam system was dismantled instead and race based hiring is promoted with no objective standards. The result is the worst of all possible worlds. It's just lucky that federal jobs are still plush enough that good people work hard to game any system to get them.


Those tests were not everything you say they are. 'Objective' tests have historically been used to exclude minorities from many things, even from voting. Those lionized tests didn't select for quality of applicant, from what I know.

> The result is the worst of all possible worlds

I think it's probably a much better world, where the second-rate candidates, who only got the job because their competition was excluded, have been replaced by the best candidates.

As a simple example, think of professional sports, which for a long time wouldn't hire black or latino athletes. To imagine the impact on quality, just imagine the reverse, if today Major League Baseball announced, 'we're firing all the black and latino players and replacing them with white people - but don't worry the quality will be the same'. It would be absurd.

It's also very sad to say it's the 'worst of all possible worlds'. The worst was when all these people were excluded from jobs and every other part of our society. That was criminal and tragic.


> The result is the worst of all possible worlds.

With respect to the rest of your points: given the number of Jews who emigrated from Russia for fear of being shipped off to Siberia to die, what you describe as the "worst of all possible worlds" is remarkably civilized by comparison.


> the intended effect is not to discriminate against an ethnic group, but balance its overwhelming predominance in a particular field. Which is precisely the objective of affirmative action.

This is clearly false. The intent of affirmative action is to give certain oppressed groups get a little assistance; it is not to reduce the predominence of any other one. The latter might be a consequence, but it's certainly not the intent.


The differences are mostly aesthetic then.


Third-party academic research showing that Asian-Americans have to score significantly higher on the SATs than other students to gain admission to Harvard.

The reason given was that Harvard uses uses participation in non-academic events as a mechanism to exclude Asian students.

You can read about it, and the lawsuit filed, here:

http://www.wsj.com/articles/complaint-alleging-discriminatio...


Hmm ... your citation's headline is: "Harvard Asian-American Bias Complaint Dismissed". The rest is paywalled.


I wouldn't overlook the distinctions between them. This kind of policy against Jews was a "quota", specifically "numerus clausus". Participation from a specific minority is prohibited once it reaches a specific number.


Yep, sounds like it to me. The fact that Jews are involved sometimes clouds the issue.


Not exactly, but not that different from Harvard capping Asians to around 17% for the past 25 years.


No. Affirmative action is giving extra support to a minority that suffers widely from discrimination and who lack social and political power. It recognizes that admissions are not a meritocracy for many (and in many ways, for anyone - people with the right social network have a big advantage) who because of discrimination don't have access to the same playing field or equipment as everyone else.

Jews in the USSR were the ones suffering widely from discrimination.


In the early 1900s, Harvard was on track to be a Jewish dominated university, and they made the (then common) decision to limit Jewish enrollment.[1] In reading that article, I learned that even Richard Feynman was affected by Columbia's quota, and ended up at MIT instead. (Go MIT!) Non-meritocratic quotas exist to this day at all elite US universities, with one exception: Caltech.[2]

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_quota

[2] http://www.mindingthecampus.org/2010/12/why_caltech_is_in_a_...


it's happening today to Asian students in a less overt fashion


I was under the impression UC Berkeley was similar to Caltech in this regard?


It is supposed to be, but the administration organized a Massive Resistance campaign against the California Civil Rights Initiative. [0] Through mass 'holistic' review of individual applications for racial background, the University of California follows the same racial quota admission system that nearly all elite American universities do.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massive_resistance


Not sure what this is in reference to, but as you can see at http://opa.berkeley.edu/uc-berkeley-fall-enrollment-data, UC Berkeley's freshman enrollment in fall 2015 was about 43% Asian (and, for comparison, 24% white), which does not indicate strong enforcement of racial caps in the manner suggested by tacon.

The analogous numbers for CalTech are 45% Asian and 27% white; see https://www.registrar.caltech.edu/academics/enrollment.

[I take no position in this post on whether the high representation of Asians, low representation of other American racial minorities, and decisions resulting in these outcomes are good or bad things (or deserve the label "meritocratic", or so on). I am simply noting that UC Berkeley seems similar to CalTech in all these regards.]


It is, but people sometimes don't list it as "elite" because it's a public university.


I know a Jewish family that, in the middle of the 20th century, changed their last name to something not associated with Judaism so that their children could get into college. Imagine having to hide your religion as a way of life, treated by society as if you were hiding a dirty secret.


Thanks for chiming in with this, I did not know Caltech was an academically-uncompromising institution.


A similar story[1] was told by the mathematician Edward Frenkel. He was a Jew in Russia and took an exam with "hard" math problems designed to prevent his admission into Moscow State University. It's possible the problems shown in the paper are the ones Frenkel saw since he was a teenager during that time period. (The Cornell paper does not specifically mention Frenkel.)

[1]http://www.amazon.com/Love-Math-Heart-Hidden-Reality/dp/0465...


Having graduated math-oriented Moscow high school that, on one hand, had a lot of graduates go to the math department (roughly translated as MechMath) of MSU (usually, most of the math class alumni goes there), and on the other, had untypical amount of jewish students, these rings so close to home. Hell, I think they actually gave us most part of these problems in math lessons.

Edit: another curious source

> Mikhail Brin decided to study mathematics instead, and was offered a place although the entry exams for Jews were sat separately, in rooms that were notoriously known as "the gas chambers."

http://www.haaretz.com/jewish/2.209/google-co-founder-my-fam...


US had something similar, Isaac Asimov started writing sci-fi, after he was not accepted to medical university.


Stanley Kaplan,[1] who basically founded the test-prep industry in the US, did so because he was rejected from medical school for being Jewish.

1: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08...


I thought he was a biochemist and taught at a med school. Wikipedia says he started writing scifi at 11, and I doubt even he was eligible for med school at that age.


Wikipedia says that he applied to med school, was rejected, went to grad school in chemistry at Columbia (partially before and partially after World War II), and then after getting his PhD he taught at the Boston University School of Medicine. So he taught at a med school without attending a med school.


Jews, and many other minority groups, form tight communities were they look out for each other help each other out. So Jewish businesses and organizations tend to discriminate in hiring, recommendations, etc. Happens all the time, very overtly. Since at this point Jewish organizations and businesses in the US are long established and powerful in many areas, this anti-gentile discrimination is problematic to society at large. But it's a type of discrimination that is rarely mentioned and complained about.


Evidence? Citations? (other than stormfront or other nazi or islamist websites)


https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_Ramapo_Central_School_D...

Read the history section.

Vigilante street patrols with vehicles made to look like marked and unmarked police vehicles, often under the guise of being affiliated with a volunteer ambulance service:

http://privateinvesigations.blogspot.com/2011/07/williamsbur...

http://gothamist.com/2010/06/05/pedestrian_struck_by_volunte...


I shouldn't even respond to this, because it can only cause problems, but really... Hollywood? NY Diamond trade? I don't really have a problem with them (not being in those industries), but that someone in the US could be unaware is bizarre.


So, the Jews control Hollywood? That canard's been around for a while. What's bizarre is that you didn't include money lending.


Happy MLK jr Day!

Less than 50 years ago, it was legal to discriminate against all minorities. And some of my older Jewish Americans friends can give awful examples. They still don't feel save in the US. You might think it's irrational, but discrimination scars. Minorities are forced to form tight communities.

The majority tribe also looks out for its own. Something like 70+% of white people don't have nonwhite friends. We are wired to seek our own, so exclusion is the default human behavior. I have a dream that one day we will overcome this silly little thing called tribalism. :)


It's sad that I'm seeing so many innocuous statements, especially those that simply say discrimination exists, modded down.


I am stating provable facts. shrug

1) today is mlk day

2) discrimination was terrible one generation ago

3) most people have narrow social circles.


While we're discussing this subject, and hoping to shine a bright light away from all the negativity, the solidarity of the Jewish people is amazing and unequalled! Jews seem to show great compassion and provide unconditional help for their own.

There's wisdom to be gleaned from this I'm sure...


[flagged]


I've lived in Israel and never observed any ethnic cleansing, slow or otherwise. I'm not a zionist. I was just a student studying abroad and have both Israeli and Arab friends (from variety of Middle Eastern countries).

I do hear that term thrown around a lot on the Internet by social justice warriors. Honest question: Have you ever been to Israel? What was your experience like when you were there to have contributed to such a strong narrative?


I have not been there, but I use something called the Internet to learn about more than my physically-accessible world.

Anyway have you been to the Occupied Territories while you were there?


A bit preachy, sorry: Everyone frowns on discrimination by others, people in different times and/or places, but much more important than criticizing others is to do the right thing ourselves. We need to look in the mirror (myself included!).

To choose a prominent example, open discrimination against people who believe in Islam is socially acceptable in much of Western society. How stupid can we be? We're blatently repeating the exact same mistakes as before, the exact thing we frown upon. Some will say, 'but this time is different; we have a valid reason' - which of course is exactly what people said all those previous times, it's just a justification for acting out on fear (and it's just dumb reasoning). The old fears and rationalizations look absurd to us now but seemed just as real at the time as our current fears. Ours will look just as absurd in the future.

Why can't we just apply the simple, blanket rule? Don't discriminate; prejudice is cruel, unjust and unfair, and it results in very bad things. It provides no real benefits. It always ends up on the wrong side of history; the accomplishments and heroes we honor are never hate and the hateful, but those that stood up against them. When our descendents look back at us, which side will we be on?


> We're blatently repeating the exact same mistakes as before, the exact thing we frown upon.

I find it enlightening. Why did people let the nazis take the jews away? Why did people support slavery, even turn escaped slaves in, for money? Why did they allow lynchings to happen?

Well, now we know. Now we understand. Maybe we can view our ancestors in a different light now.


I've been reading US immigration history for various groups. Each group suffered, assimilated, and then promptly shat on the next group. History repeats.

Things are better now because of civil rights. Discrimination is less violent. But things could be better.


Similar events happened in London in the mid-19th century. University College London (UCL), now one of the best colleges in the University of London, was founded to allow students entry through non-religious means. Consequently, it was the first college in the university to allow equal entry to both Jews and women.


This is why British fee-paying schools are called 'public schools', by the way --- they're open to any member of the public who can pay, rather than being open to only a certain subset of the population. Plus public schools were under public management (a board of governors).

I believe there still are some private schools (UK sense) in the UK, but I can't find any references.


Most any home school is a private school using that definition.


For those in the US, UCL's one of the crunchier CS universities outside ImpBridge.


Without the alternative easier exams to compare with and the grading scheme that were used, these problems do not mean much regarding the discrimination that took place. It is quite common to give good grades even when the exercises have not been solved completely, but interesting thoughts and ideas have been exposed, especially in mathematics.

Off topic, but regarding problem 2, a math professor once told me of a PhD student who started studying this kind of functions. He spent some time to discover their many interesting properties, until the professor made him understand why these functions were so regular, and that he had actually wasted his time. Funny to see this again.


If you read the book Perfect Rigor, about Grigori Perelman (solved the Poincare Conjecture - won the fields metal, but would not accept the 1MM dollar prize on principle) they tell multiple tails of anti-semitism in the Russian math departments at the time. According to the book, Perelman was basically really lucky to be born when he was and where he was, and that is really the only reason he was given a chance to get the education he got. The world is obviously a better place for guys like this.


I found a site with some more background on this subject http://www.tanyakhovanova.com/coffins.html


I wonder why are Askhenazi Jews apparently more intelligent on average... seems that genetics is the main factor, not culture, but I can imagine research in this area is discouraged and controversial.


Something must have happened during the Middle Ages - in antiquity, the Jews weren't regarded as particularly intelligent compared to other groups - that title went to the Ionian Greeks. There's a hypothesis that medieval restrictions on Jewish occupations & land ownership + Christian restrictions on charging interest pushed Jewish people into financial / lending roles in which intelligence was an advantage (meanwhile, many of the smartest Christian men went into the priesthood with its official celibacy). So you had selection on intelligence genes. Further evidence for this hypothesis is the raft of genetic diseases that disproportionately affect Jews, and are related to brain/nerve development - Canavan disease, familial dysautonomia, Joubert Syndrome, MLIV, Niemann-Pick Disease, Spinal muscular atrophy, Tay-Sachs disease, etc. It's possible that being a carrier for some of those provides some sort of boost to intelligence / brain functioning - otherwise you would expect them to be much less common.


Key word in that sentence would be "apparently" (although feel free to provide hard data backing that claim).

A just as probable explanation (and equally controversial and possibly discouraged)would be that Ashkenazi Jews may or may not have acquired a disproportionate influence (wrt to the %age of the population they comprise), allowing them to be over-represented in certain fields giving them the appearance of being "more intelligent on average"?


Just research it for a bit (google "ashkenazi intelligence"), I think it's pretty evident.


Best I could find is a shady Wikipedia article referencing a controversial study, not exactly compelling evidence... Nevermind that scientists cannot even agree on a standard valid unit of measurement for "intelligence".

edit: Just google "white men can't jump", i think it's pretty obvious


Well I mean, the evidence is pretty strong. Several IQ studies, vastly overrepresented among Nobel Prize winners, Fields Medal winners, ACM Turing Award winners, 6 out of 19 chess champions, etc. I think the disproportionate influence theory is an extremely unlikely explanation (6 out of 19 chess champions? no, that's not because of disproportionate influence).


Research is discouraged, but not impossible.

"Natural history of Ashkenazi Intelligence" by Harpending and Cochran is a good start. http://web.mit.edu/fustflum/documents/papers/AshkenaziIQ.jbi...

(Hint: It's all genetic.)


Interesting read, but I have some problems with it.

> Another theory suggests that there was selective breeding for Talmudic scholarship. This seems unlikely to have been an important selective factor, since there weren’t very many professional rabbis, certainly less than one percent of the population.

Although there are very few rabbis, majority of ultra-orthodox men spend most part of their time in rabbinic studies until they're very deep into adult life, and their level of success in that field is directly converted into their social status. (Which also means that they don't work and depend on their wives (who are also expected to care about the house and have a lot of children) as well as welfare from state and charities to survive).


This is a relatively recent development and certainly wasn't true for most of Ashkenazi history.


I wonder why it's discouraged? I think it undermines antisemitism rather than otherwise. As it's a benign explanation for jewish overrepresentation in cognitively demanding endeavours.


First because it validates the hypothesis that there are significant differences in intelligence between ethnicities (i.e. if Ashkenazis are genetically smarter, perhaps the lower avg IQ in blacks is at least partly genetic).

And second, it can cause some people to perceive Ash. as "others", enemies and give rise to various conspiracy theories.


I'll grant you the first point. But what sort of conspiracy theory? It elegantly explains overrepresentation without any coordination. Once you account for the Ashkenazis much higher IQ, there isn't anything for a conspiracy to explain.


Yeah, you can be right, both points were just guesses without much thought.


if your people are traditionally discouraged or outright banned from (A) large swaths of roles including land ownership, politics, military and farming and (B) intermarriage with the host country then they are more likely to (1) be filtered into occupations requiring intellectual capital and (2) intramarry to continue a cycle that enforces that strength


Descendant of a guy named Isaac Aaron that was askhenazi.

Pretty living proof I am stupid myself and I have a simple answer to your question. I think this theory is stupid. I am stupid, therefore I am right thus proving my claim.

But can help for the quest about the controversy.

My assumption is research trying to prove the superiority of genes is kind of badly accepted by the opinions and that it makes them all very uneasy when they remember the results of this every time it was made : a bloody war that ended badly for the one claiming superiority.

Historical precedent: the axe claiming they were superior races, the brits and frogs claiming to be superior while colonizing, apartheid, the aristocrats famous last words before heing beheaded, the romans ... the greeks, the persians... before collapsing.

I have blood X therefore I am superior has a tendency to create a spontaneous combustion of the claimers in intense ridicule... and often tremendous pain.

I guess people are superstitious and fear to take the risk.

Or more probably the illuminaty are at works since 500 BC at least... or maybe I am in fact smart, and it is a plain stupid idea proven by my own stupidity as a token of proof...

So still convinced it does not worth being researched, or do you hate them that much that you want them dead by ridicule?

You could study from your existence your relationship to any kind of superiority and publish your results. I would be delighted to validate my theory by experimentation.

It maybe stupid, but who knows? Maybe I am smart. Surely because I have blood. Human blood.


Some answers:

    1. Solve for positive x: 
        x (8 sqrt(1 - x) + sqrt(1 + x)) <= 11 sqrt(1 + x) - 16 sqrt(1 - x)
The upper bound is clearly x=1 because the square roots cease to exist for x > 1 and and substituting in x = 1 - epsilon^2 gives to first order (8 e + 1) <= (11 - 16 e) which works because 8 <= 11. Does this thing have a root in [0, 1]?

The inverse of y = sqrt(1 + x)/sqrt(1 - x) is with some work x = (y^2 - 1)/(y^2 + 1) so when we divide through by sqrt(1-x) which we know now to be positive, and replace the above, we find:

    (y^2 - 1)/(y^2 + 1) * (8 + y) = 11 y - 16
Expanding out we're looking for a root of

    -10 y^3 + 24*y^2 - 12 y + 8 = 0
Dividing by -2 to normalize somewhat:

    5 y^3 - 12 y^2 + 6 y - 4 = 0
At this point I almost gave up (since it's a cubic and I had no guarantee that x was rational) but got lucky, I started trying positive integers to see where this transitions from negative (y=0) to positive (5y^3) and accidentally found that y=2 solves the equation. Sending it back through I find 3/5, so assuming that it doesn't double back somewhere in the interval [3/5, 1] that's the interval that we're looking for. Phew!

    2. Find all functions F(x) : R -> R having the propery that for any x1 and x2, 
       F(x1) - F(x2) <= (x1 - x2)^2.
Yeah, if you're just entering a university you're probably not going to get this one. Rewriting x1 as x + dx, x2 as x, then this says F(x + dx) - F(x) <= dx^2. With some limits and the Squeeze theorem, this restricts the functions to be differentiable with derivative zero, so they are constant functions. By inspection that is not just necessary but also sufficient.

    3. Given a triangle ABC construct with a straightedge and compass a point K on 
       AB and a point M on BC such that AK = KM = MC.
This seems in general impossible except for some very specific triangles -- is that true? For example if |AB| = 2 and |BC| = 1, it seems that the only point on AB which could possibly be a candidate for K is the midpoint, with M being B. But the only way that the distance from K to M is the same is if BCK is an equilateral triangle, which requires furthermore that the angle BAC is 60 degrees, no?

    4. Solve 2 cubert(2y - 1) = y^3 + 1 for real y.
So y = 1 is an obvious solution. Cubing both sides we get

    y^9 + 3y^6 + 3y^3 - 16 y + 9 = 0
Then doing polynomial division by y-1 I get

    y^8 + y^7 + y^6 + 4 y^5 + 4 y^4 + 4 y^3 + 7 y^2 + 7 y - 9.
At this point I got stuck and turned to automated tools, which say that this is factorizable as:

    (y^2 + y - 1)(y^6 + 2 y^4 + 2 y^3 + 4 y^2 + 2 y + 9)
Graphing the right hand side it seems to be consistently positive, so that just leaves the left hand side, which is -1/2 +/- sqrt(5)/2. That's pretty difficult.


were those offered only to undesired applicants or to everyone and somehow only the desired people knew how to solve?


Only to undesirables. Entry exams at mechmath are composed of written and oral stages; these are the questions asked by examiners at oral stage of examination, one on one with potential student.


Only to the undesirables students. Quoting the paper, "The Mathematics Department of Moscow State University, the most prestigious mathematics school in Russia, was at that time actively trying to keep Jewish students (and other 'undesirables') from enrolling in the department. One of the methods they used for doing this was to give the unwanted students a different set of problems on their oral exam."


Ah. Then it makes sense. I thought first it was a set of carefully selected problems, created for the purpose of letting one group fail and another pass. Which would have been very interesting (i.e. are there problems which one group solves better than another, or problems that one group must refuse to solve for religious reasons etc).

Giving a set of hard problems to an unwanted group and a separate set of problems (or no problems at all) to another is just simple discrimination. They could just as well have had a sign that told the unwanted group not to apply and it would have been no less discriminating.


Which groups are the 'undesirables'?


The Jewish students were regarded as the undesirables and given the 'coffin' problems in order to eliminate them - read the links up-thread.


Yes, thank you. I am curious if there were other groups or it's only limited to Jewish students.




Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: