Jews Targeted as Racism Victims
The initiative of the Center for Jewish Ethics on race and racism in American Jewish experiences (“RRC to Launch Race, Racism Initiative,” Dec. 16) would be remiss if it does not address the history of racial discrimination targeting Jews.
Although Judaism is not a race, Jews in the U.S. have long been targets of racism. According to Yale Professor of African American Studies Matthew F. Jacobson, early Americans commonly viewed Jews as a separate racial category, and early Jewish leaders themselves called Jews a race.
As late as the 1830s, several states prohibited or restricted Jews from holding public office. From the 20th century on, hate literature spewed by white supremacists and neo-Nazi groups have typically referred to Jews as a “Semitic race” in an attempt to portray Jews as inferior to whites and as outsiders in America.
In our time, Jews are subject to racial discrimination. In 2018, a U.S. magistrate ruled in favor of an applicant of Jewish descent, who was denied a coaching position at Louisiana College, based on Title VII which is designed to protect members of racial groups from discrimination in employment. In 2019, President Trump issued an executive order stating that antisemitism is punishable under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act which deals with discrimination based only on race, ethnicity and nationality, not religion. The order says that Jews can be considered to have been targeted for discrimination on the basis of their nationality or race as Jews.
Jerry Stern | Merion Station