What do Jews of color really think – and who are they anyway? – Before


If you’re looking for a guide to the perplexities of “Beyond the Count: Perspectives and Lived Experiences of Jews of Color,” a good start might be to not think of it as one study.

It really is two, and they might have been better titled “Who Exactly Are the Jews of Color Anyway?” “” And “So what do the Jews of color think?

The work, or both, was commissioned by the Jewish of Color Initiative, and involved a large number of impressive academics who compiled responses from 1,118 participants identified as Jews of color.

He began by describing the term.

“‘Jews of color’ is understood as a flawed but useful umbrella term that encompasses a wide range of identities and meanings,” the account reads.

“Those who identified themselves as JoC in this study used the term in multiple ways: as a racial group (eg, black, Asian and multiracial Jews); to indicate national heritage (eg Egyptian, Iranian and Ethiopian Jews); to describe regional and geographic connections (eg Latina / o / x, Mizrahi, Sephardic Jews); and to specify subcategories (eg, transracial adopted Jews and Jewish women of color).

Then there are those who, although clearly belonging to one or more of the above categories, may not identify as “colored”, even though the majority of people who meet them have no problem with it. guess what they are. Race, like everyone else’s Rachel Dolezal to self-described Tiger Woods “Cablasiens” can tell you, is as much defined by how others see you as it is by how you see yourself.

After defining its terms, the report offers a wealth of demographic information about the Jews of color it studied – with the caveat that it was not based on a weighted sample to project total size and population. composition of the community, but a voluntary survey circulated mainly among committed Jews of color. While this is only a snapshot of those respondents, it is the largest and most detailed snapshot ever produced. Some highlights are:

  • 21% identified as black, African or African-American
  • 11% as Hispanic or Latino / a / x
  • 10% as an Asian American
  • 7% like Middle East or North Africa
  • 1% as a Native American, First Nation or Native American

  • 42% said they had a Jewish parent, 22% had two Jewish parents and 33% had no Jewish parent

  • 49% were raised Jewish, 16% grew up Jewish and something else, 36% non-Jewish

  • 77% said their current religious tradition was exclusively Jewish, 21% as Jewish and another religion

  • 67% of respondents identified as female, 23% as male, 9% as non-binary or some other gender

This latter category certainly seems to underscore what I said earlier about the study not representing the Jewish population of color as a whole; it would make our communities much more dominated by women than the general population.

Again, the overwhelming majority of adopted children in China were girls until recently, according to a Pew study, which would likely skew the gender distribution of Jewish adoptive families.

And I should probably check my own offspring before questioning other people’s calculations: I have a daughter; she has two children, a boy and a girl. While statistically insignificant, it fits the sampling precisely: two-thirds of my descendants are Jewish women of color.

If analyzing the study of who we are is food for thought, his account of what we think is a banquet:

  • 80% of those polled said they had been discriminated against in Jewish circles, most of them in synagogues or other spiritual communities. One in five people said they had not been discriminated against in Jewish circles.

  • Most “agreed that they had had a wide range of negative experiences in Jewish community settings,” as the survey noted, with 75% saying that “others made assumptions about me based on my complexion ”.

  • “Respondents do not feel that American Jewish leaders are adequately addressing racism and white supremacy within American Jewish community,” the study reports; 65% said leaders respond poorly or very poorly to the needs of Jews of color.

While this is a dire picture, it’s not exactly news. Jews of Color have been highlighting these failures for years, in numerous accounts in the Jewish media and beyond. There are countless examples of devotees being asked if they are Jewish, or supposed to be a helper, or, in one of my favorite experiences in a suburban Twin Cities synagogue, mistaken for Rod Carew ( my batting average never quite matched his, I’m afraid).

But that’s not all I accuse or woe to me. More than half “agreed that they felt a sense of belonging among white Jews,” the report reads, “and 41% agree that they were able to find opportunities to express all facets of themselves in predominantly white Jewish spaces. ” Three-quarters of those polled described working for justice and equality – Tikkun Olam – as the most important expression of Jewish identity.

Jews of all stripes might want to consider this and the inherent responsibilities that it demands. It starts with understanding who each of us is, made a little bit clearer with a study like this.

Or, like I said, both.


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