Paris (Jul. 1)
Following the termination of the World War, France became the largest and most important center for Jewish students. Aside from the French Jewish youth, which is heavily represented in the French colleges and which to a certain extent keeps aloof from Jewish social life, France has also thousands of foreign Jewish students. Poland, Roumania, Lithuania. Latvia and the Near East send fresh hundreds of Jewish young men and girls to the French university cities every year. “Numerus clausus,” anti-Semitic persecutions, the force of attraction of French culture, the small importance of the colleges of the home countries, the comparatively low cost of living, the expectation of earning money while studying-all this has brought about a concentration of Jewish students in French universities. What has also played a certain part has been the fact that the students who come from Poland and Roumania, the leading sources of Jewish student emigration, get certain privileges in France, because Roumania and Poland by some political reasons are the favorite children of the French Government.
Thus populous colonies of Jewish students have been formed in Paris, Nancy, Toulouse, Gaen, Montepellier, Grenoble, Lyons, Strasbourg, etc. It is no exaggeration to state that no less than half of the young Jewish intellectual element of Eastern Europe now gets its college education in France. The Jewish students in France constitute a kind of reservoir which undoubtedly from year to year will supply thousands of intelligent forces to the Jewish masses in Eastern Europe. In this lies the national and social importance. The conditions prevailing in these centers of Jewish students in France must perforce draw the attention of Jewish social opinion to the processes going on.
The material situation of the Jewish students is a hard one. A great number of these students come here with the hope of getting work and earning a livelihood while studying. However, only a very small number of them succeed in accomplishing this purpose. In the first place, it is not an easy matter to work and pursue studies at the same time. Then again, it is also difficult, almost impossible, to find work. In Paris a small number of students manage to earn a few hundred francs a month, but in the cities of the provinces this is utterly impossible. Eighty per cent of the students live on the money that they get from home, but this money is also not vouchsafed. The economic situation of the Jewish populations in the East European countries gets worse from year to year and hundreds of parents who used to send their children to study and were certain of their ability to send the
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necessary money regularly are now no longer able to do this, and the need among the Jewish students is very great. Many of them suffer hunger in silence, while others even abandon their studies in order to be able to earn enough for daily subsistence and often these are young men who are in the last term of the course and who are unable to keep up for the last few months due to utter lack of resources.
The situation is a difficult one. Suffering is keen. Up to now the students have received no assistance from Jewish societies. Formerly they used occasionally to arrange a ball or apply to some rich Jew for a donation and in this way they would muster several thousand francs for student funds, from which small loans used to be made to a small number of extremely impoverished members. However, no systematized, organized social assistance existed. The young people were left to their own hard fate to shift for themselves.
Quite recently the situation has changed a little. The scandalous “case fo the Jewish student” which occured a short time ago has through its awful scenes unwillingly drawn the attention of the large Jewish circles towards the fate of the Jewish students. All such circles have come to realize that if there is somebody to be “tried” there should be put on the bench of the accused not only the Jewish student but also Jewish society, which showed itself so indifferent to its youth, and as an indirect result of this “case” a committee has been formed to help the Jewish students. The very first month of its existence proved that its purpose meets with a favorable reception. In a short time the committee collected substantial amounts of money. All who were asked for a donation were very glad to give something. Assistance to students is now very readily proffered among Jewish circles.
However, fresh trouble arose. To whom should this assistance be given? Through whom should such money be distributed? There really doesn’t exist any recognized general Jewish student organization. The so-called “general student organization” takes in no more than 200,000 Jewish students among the thousands of Jewish students in Paris. At the same time there exist a Polish Jewish Association, a Palestinian Club, a Hungarian Jewish Association and so on, some of which such as the Polish Jewish Association, have more members than the “general” organization. Morover, they are better organized.
Compatriotic character has shown itself stronger and more alive than the principle of “general” organization. In the compatriotic organizations the students are bound to ties of real, material interests: Subsidies from their Embassies; action in the home countries for passport and visas; reductions on railroad fares for students going home. etc. All this has strongly bound together the compatriotic organizations at the expense of the “general” organization and the continual conflicts between them have even brought forth a special court of arbitration, which has somewhat set their mutual relationship right and made possible an organized systematic distribution of the funds.