There is a story -- unfortunately a true one --who had attended a high school for gifted students was failed in his entrance examinations at Moscow State University because he looked Jewish to his examiners. Later he was admitted to the university after his mother brought a family tree to prove that he had no Jewish blood.
There are many other documented cases of discrimination against Jewish students at Soviet universities in recent years, and one of the worst offenders is Moscow State. Eightyseven students from special mathematics high schools recently applied for admission there, 40 of them Jewish and 47 non-Jewish. The high school grades of all had been comparable, but when the university's entrance exam grades were released, only six of the Jewish students had passed. Forty of the non-Jewish students had. Even some students who had won prizes for math in the Olympiads, the competitive national championships, were failed in mathematics entrance exams.
Andrei Sakharov, the famous nuclear physicist, wrote in an American publication, Alert, that Jewish students often are given extremely difficult math and physics problems to solve in such exams. He noted that he had worked out one problem given to a Jewish student but that he was able to do so only after more than an hour of thought in the quiet of his own home.
The student had been given 20 minutes, knowing that his whole future was at stake. And all the while, an openly hostile examiner sat across from him, impatiently looking at his watch.
The anti-Semitism that exists today in the Soviet Union and especially in Soviet universities is not a new phenomenon. It goes back for many centuries in czarist Russia.
Many signs show, however, that the present wave of anti-Semitism signals the be ginning of a new approach to the Jewish problem in the Soviet Union. It coincides with an anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish campaign in the press and with a crackdown on dissidents, and indicates that the Soviet leaders have decided to purge the communist paradise of Jews, dissidents, and other undesirable elements.
The campaign also is intended to breathe new life into the official Soviet ideology, the Marxist-Leninist religion which has grown stale.
As a result of harassment, thousands of Jews are leaving Russia every month. Some leave against their will. But even though the government allows them to emigrate, it continues to harass them up to the last minute, creating new obstacles at each step along the way.
Papers must be filled out by one's parents, one's employers, and nearly a dozen other sources, even before it is possible to apply for a visa. Even my 60 -year-old mother had to have written permission from her father before her emigration papers could be processed.
From the moment a Soviet Jew decides to go, he lives under the shadow of fear. Always there are bureaucratic delays. Often there are threats of arrest and, perhaps, imprisonment.
At the time I applied for a visa to leave the Soviet Union, the government had imposed a higher education tax that would have required emigrants to pay huge sums in return for their education. My wife and I would have had to pay about $40,000. After half a year, they stopped enforcing that tax because of economic pressures from the United States in response to Soviet emigration policies.
Americans, reluctant to meddle in Soviet affairs, may soon have to take a stand again on the worsening situation of Jews and other minorities there. Before the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, there was talk in the United States of abandoning the Jackson-Vanik amendment, which keeps the Soviets from attaining most-favored-nation trade status. The US also was making other overtures toward extending trade with the Soviets.
But, as long as mistreatment of Jews, dissidents, and other minority groups within the Soviet Union continues, Americans should maintain and even extend trade restrictions. Furthermore, a statement of harassment of minorities should be included in the Olympics boycott.
It will never be easy to stop Soviet human rights abuses, but it is becoming equally difficult to ignore them.