Jewish people suffered under discrimination for a long time after coming to this country. Through hard work, financial success, and becoming major players in a number of industries… Jews in America became “white”. A few even joined groups which promoted discrimination agains non-whites.
The Chumph administration with a number of virulently anti-Semitic staff and extremist “pro-christian appointees, is set to push that back to the last century to a time when they used to lynch people for being Jewish.
When Stephen Bannon called his website, Breitbart, the “platform for the alt-right” this summer, he was referring to a movement that promotes white nationalism and argues that the strength of the United States is tied to its ethnic European roots. Its members mostly stick to trolling online, but much of what they do isn’t original or new: Their taunts often involve vicious anti-Semitism. They make it clear that Jews are not included in their vision of a perfect, white, ethno-state.
On the opposite side of American politics, many progressive groups are preparing to mount a rebellion against Donald Trump. They see solidarity among racial minorities as their goal, and largely blame Trump’s election on racism and white supremacy. Three-quarters of American Jews voted against Trump, and many support this progressive vision. Some members of these groups, though, have singled out particular Jews for their collusion with oppressive power—criticisms which range from inflammatory condemnations of Israel to full-on conspiraciesabout global Jewish media and banking cabals.
These are rough sketches of two camps, concentrated at the margins of U.S. political culture. On the extreme right, Jews are seen as impure—a faux-white race that has tainted America. And on the extreme left, Jews are seen as part of a white-majority establishment that seeks to dominate people of color. Taken together, these attacks raise an interesting question: Are Jews white?
“Jewish identity in American is inherently paradoxical and contradictory,” said Eric Goldstein, an associate professor of history at Emory University. “What you have is a group that was historically considered, and considered itself, an outsider group, a persecuted minority. In the space of two generations, they’ve become one of the most successful, integrated groups in American society—by many accounts, part of the establishment. And there’s a lot of dissonance between those two positions.”
As pro- and anti-Trump movements jockey to realize their agendas, the question of Jews and whiteness illustrates the high stakes—and dangers—of racialized politics. Jews, who do not fit neatly into American racial categories, challenge both sides’ visions for the country. Over time, Jews have become more integrated into American society—a process scholars sometimes refer to as “becoming white.” It wasn’t the skin color of Ashkenazi Jews of European descent that changed, though; it was their status. Trump’s election has convinced some Jews that they remain in the same position as they have throughout history: perpetually set apart from other groups through their Jewishness, and thus left vulnerable.
From the earliest days of the American republic, Jews were technically considered white, at least in a legal sense. Under the Naturalization Act of 1790, they were considered among the “free white persons” who could become citizens. Later laws limited the number of immigrants from certain countries, restrictions which were in part targeted at Jews. But unlike Asian and African immigrants in the late 19th century, Jews retained a claim to being “Caucasian,” meaning they could win full citizenship status based on their putative race.
Culturally, though, the racial status of Jews was much more ambiguous. Especially during the peak of Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many Jews lived in tightly knit urban communities that were distinctly marked as separate from other American cultures: They spoke Yiddish, they published their own newspapers, they followed their own schedule of holidays and celebrations. Those boundaries were further enforced by widespread anti-Semitism: Jews were often excluded from taking certain jobs, joining certain clubs, or moving into certain neighborhoods. Insofar as “whiteness” represents acceptance in America’s dominant culture, Jews were not yet white.
Over time, though, they assimilated. Just like other white people, they fled to the suburbs. They took advantage of educational opportunities like the G.I. bill. They became middle class. “They thought they were becoming white,” said Lewis Gordon, a professor of philosophy at the University of Connecticut. “Many of them stopped speaking Yiddish. Many of them stopped going to synagogue. Many of them stopped wearing the accoutrements of Jewishness.”
Jews think about questions of race in their own lives with incredible diversity. There are many different kinds of Jews: Orthodox, secular, Reform; Jews by birth, Jews by choice, Jews by conversion. Some Jews who aren’t particularly religious may identify as white, but others may feel that their Jewishness is specifically linked to their ethnic inheritance. “If you’re a secular Jew, how are you a Jew? It has to be through your cultural or ethnic identity,” said Gordon. “Whereas if you’re a religious Jew, you would argue that you’re a Jew primarily through your religious practices.” As Jews assimilated into American culture, “ironically, investment in religiosity paved the way for greater white identification of many Jews,” he said, allowing more religiously observant Jews to think of themselves as white, rather than ethnically Jewish.
Goldstein sees it differently. “‘Whiteness’ and engagement with the categories of ‘white’ and ‘black’ are a reflection of a level of acculturation into a larger society,” he said. The Orthodox are “not just religiously different [from other Jews], but … socially separated,” he added. “They tend to see the world through the lens of their own community.” In other words, their categories for understanding themselves and others might not be “white” and “non-white”; they’re more likely to be “Jewish” and “non-Jewish.”...Read the Rest Here…