Emanuel Ringelblum finishes high school in 1920 and moves to Warsaw to study medicine at the University of Warsaw. Unfortunately, he is rejected, due to “numerus clausus”.
Numerus clausus was a law designed to limit the number of minority students at universities. It stated that the number of minority students admitted could not exceed their percentage in the general population. These quotas disproportionately affected Jews and were common in many countries at the time, including the United States.
During the 20 years between the two World Wars, Jews represented 10% of the overall population of Poland. Warsaw was home to over 300,000 Jews, constituting 30% of the city’s residents. It was the second largest Jewish community in the world after New York.
Eventually, in 1922, Emanuel is accepted by the Department of Philosophy at the University of Warsaw, where he takes up history. He becomes one of the founding members of the Young Historians Circle. With help from co-founder Raphael Mahler, he gathers more than 40 Jewish history students, united in a common goal of defending the right of Jews to live in Poland.
Two years later, he joins YIVO where he is responsible for the organization’s historical research department.
In May 1927, he successfully defends his doctoral thesis entitled “Jews of Warsaw from its Earliest History until 1527”. One year later, he receives a high school teaching diploma.
He then begins work at Yehudia, a private secondary school for Jewish girls, where he meets Abraham Lewin. Later, both will become prominent members of the Oneg Shabbat organization. Ringelblum’s experience as a teacher, paired with his passion for social work, inspires him to organize educational opportunities for adults, especially from working-class backgrounds.
In 1930, he starts working with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC, The Joint), providing financial and moral support to those who face discrimination. It is also through the JDC that he helps establish a credit association offering low-interest loans to members of the Jewish community.