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White Privilege

The following messages (here and in Part 4) all deal with the issue
of whether Jews are/should be considered as 'white.' The messages
appeared on WMST-L in September/October 2001, shortly after the
discussion of 'white privilege' in Part 2 of this file; at least one
message refers explicitly to that discussion.  Thus, this thread has
been included in this 'white privilege' file, even though most of the
messages below and in Part 4 do not discuss Peggy McIntosh's writing.

Date: Fri, 28 Sep 2001 06:14:31 EDT
From: Batyawein AT AOL.COM
Subject: cr novels of the seventies class revisited
Hi, list--I don't want to get into a turf war or intensify a fight, but what
about the issue that two of the writers are Jewish, not technically white, as
whites have exterminated Jews in the previous century, and when we talk about
whiteness, and what we are really talking about is power; the Rita Mae Brown
protagonist's family and the two jewish families that spawned Piercy and
Shulman are not the same as WASP ruling class families; Piercy herself grew
up in a situation of race riots in Detroit and sometimes is taken for a
Latina writer by people who don't know her origin, so far does she go in
documenting many layers and varieties of diverse experiences.  And anyway
doesn't Small Changes also have the puerto rican theater group thing in the
end as the final solution of the path to go in?  I know Marge is on the list;
waiting for her to comment. What would be interesting to discover is the
process whereby these three particular books I have chosen for a particular
focus to read in tandem with the early seventies theory--Small Changes,
Memoirs of a Prom Queen and Ruby Fruit Jungle--got to editors and got
published; why those books and why not others; what kind of connections those
authors had; what kind of support mechanisms.

[the rest of this long message has been omitted because it doesn't
deal with the issue of white privilege]

batyawein  AT Cleveland hts OH
Date: Fri, 28 Sep 2001 08:40:39 EDT
From: "Diane L. Fowlkes" <SophieatSGII AT AOL.COM>
Subject: Batya's course
Brava Batya!  I hope you are able to get it approved.  I have heard of similar
 dynamics in other English departments, and you have reminded me of how that can
 contort what we really want to do.  I agree that we have a little more freedom
 to do courses as we want in women's studies departments or other kinds of
 programs where women's studies predominates,though there are politics there as
 well, of course. (smile)

I agree that "white" is definitely a concept that has to be problematized and
 contested in all that we do.  At the same time, I guess the idea that novels by
 women of color would be attended to in seminar papers made me think of the main
 texts that everyone would be asked to read as by "white" women.  And I am one
 to believe that IF the authors or thinkers we are focusing on are "white," we
 shouldn't call them simply authors or thinkers as if they represented all the
 others.  And I don't sense that you and I are in disagreement about that.  And
 I agree with you that those authors you chose for your course certainly are not
 the WASPs that are usually associated with "white"!  Finally, I most whole
 heartedly agree with you that when we criticize the movement for being white
 middle class heterosexual women, we obliterate all the other women who were and
 are there.  At the same time, we miss the opportunity to show the ways in which
 our language and perspectives
may indeed reflect "white middle class heterosexual," if that is being done.

Definitely a good question you posed about why and how those early authors got
 published and others didn't.

I am very thankful for this list and the opportunity to hear about your course
 and those of others, to be able to offer suggestions, what are intended as
 constructive criticisms, to be able to discuss ideas and disagree as well as

Diane L. Fowlkes
sophieatsgii  AT
Date: Fri, 28 Sep 2001 10:28:39 -0400
From: hagolem <hagolem AT C4.NET>
Subject: Re: cr novels of the seventies class revisited
Press, 1998 ISBN 081352590X.

When and where I grew up in center city Detroit, Jews were not white.  We
were excluded from most neighborhoods "Jewsand Blacks" were always lumped
together.  We were shut out of many jobs unless we lied.  Antisemitism
blared from every radio in block after block while Father Coughlin held
forth about "Jews and Blacks" and the Silver Knights handed out propaganda
demanding the removal of both groups.

How did I get published?  I had already been publishing poetry for 11 years
when my first novel was accepted. I had published a book of poetry with
Wesleyan University Press,  I had published short stories in many literary
magazines.  I had written six novels previously to my first published
novel, that could not be published.  Basically, I persisted with dumb
stubbornness.  My 7th novel was published and my 8th [being officially
classified as my first and second].  The second novel DANCE THE EAGLE TO
SLEEP, did very well.  It got good reviews and sold well.  So my third
novel, which is the one being discussed, SMALL CHANGES, which was under a 2
book contract with DANCE, was published by Doubleday.  There is no great
mystery. When SMALL CHANGES was published, I already had a literary
reputation and had been publishing for a number of years.
Date: Fri, 28 Sep 2001 11:11:53 -0400
From: Daphne Patai <daphne.patai AT SPANPORT.UMASS.EDU>
Subject: Jews as non-white
Marge Piercy's statement clearly reveals that "non-white" is being used
metaphorically, to mean "discriminated against."  It makes no sense to speak
of Caucasian gays, the Irish, or most  American Jews [leaving room always
for racial diversity of particular  Jewish communities around the world] as
"non-white" - however discriminated against they were in certain historical
periods and plales.  But it is an interesting indication of the current
value attached to  the words 'white' and 'non-white.'

daphne.patai  AT
Date: Fri, 28 Sep 2001 11:55:10 -0500
From: nbenokraitis AT UBMAIL.UBALT.EDU
Subject: Re: Jews as non-white
On Fri, 28 Sep 2001, Janni Aragon wrote:

> DP-
> I am sorry, but I did not read Piercy's statement the same way. I read it as
> Jews not being white. That is, being the "other."

I don't think, however, that one can equate "not being white" (which is
not true of most Jews) with being the "other." Unless, as Daphne said,
we're speaking metaphorically.

Nijole (Niki) Benokraitis, Professor of Sociology
University of Baltimore, 1420 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21201
Fax: 410-837-6051; Voicemail: 410-837-5294; nbenokraitis  AT
Date: Fri, 28 Sep 2001 11:00:23 -0500
From: AnaLouise Keating <zami AT MINDSPRING.COM>
Subject: Re: Jews as non-white
I would recommend Karen Brodkin's _How Jews Became White Folks and What
That Says About Race in America_.  I find that talking about the various
ways people became racialized--whether as 'white' or 'black' or etc., etc.
can be very useful in assisting students in understanding the power
dynamics and history of 'race.'


AnaLouise Keating, Ph.D.
Women's Studies
Texas Woman's University
P.O. Box 425557
Denton, TX  76204-5557
Phone (W) 940/898-2129; (H) 940/535-1745
Fax: 940/898-2101
Email: zami  AT

"You must act as if it is impossible to fail."--Ashanti Proverb
Date: Fri, 28 Sep 2001 12:42:18 -0400
From: Ilana Nash <inash AT BGNET.BGSU.EDU>
Subject: Re: Jews as non-white
When my mother was growing up in America in the 1940s, the people of the
middle East were not at all considered "white," they were considered ASIAN.
My mother was directed by officials, when filling out forms, to check
herself as "Asian" since she had been born in Israel (Palestine at the
time).  So those categories are very fluid, depending on the ideas of the

Judaism has never been merely a religion.  Because Jews have been so
extremely, and so consistently segregated -- regardless of which "host
country" they lived in -- their lives have been separated from the dominant
culture's in almost every way.  Therefore, the religion folds into the ....
everything else.  The languages (Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino), the food, the
music, the pastimes, the folklore, the rituals, the way of life, the
literature.  And, in some cases, the visible differences that have made some
people really "look Jewish" more than others.  (Yes, I know this is
contested terrain and is generally taken as a sign of utter racism when
somebody says it, but it is also true that some faces really do suggest
Ashkenazic Jewishness (for example) more than others--- and that Jews have
used that fact to help them identify each other as allies in groups of
potentially hostile white people).

All of these factors contribute to Judaism's/Jewishness's being an
ethnicity, not merely a religion, and have done so for centuries.  To the
extent that Western Jews are now considered "white," that has come about not
merely because of an increased "enlightened" attitude among Christian
whites, but largely because -- in the US, at least -- European Jews have
willingly sacrificed their ethnic markers.  They have deliberately forgotten
Yiddish, gotten nose jobs, changed their last names, and put Christmas trees
up in their houses.  This is the story of my own family (how Jewish does
"Nash" sound?  Well, it used to be Nusbaum), and the story, too, of
virtually every Jew I grew up around in Los Angeles.

I discovered in my early 20s, after willingly going along with being "white"
during my youth, that a reclaiming of my ethnicity proved just how much of
an ethnicity it was.  When I was in graduate school in an intellectually
conservative English Department, I started being more openly Jewish --
missing classes for the High Holy Days, agitating for classes on
Jewish-American lit., etc.  And I rapidly discovered that people who'd been
utterly benign to me beforehand, became suspicious and hostile bastards.
"You're not ORTHODOX, are you?" demanded one beloved professor whom I'd
known for years, in a very disgusted tone of voice -- all because I had said
that I prefer living in cities with some Jewish population, so I wouldn't be
all alone.  She couldn't handle that statement -- if she was willing to
overlook my Jewishness, why should't I be?  And you see, that is what I
learned:  the whites around were OVERLOOKING my Jewishness, not truly
accepting it.

I was scolded, shamed, and ridiculed for identifying myself as Jewish.  The
attitude of everyone around me in this English Dept. was, "You're so lucky!
We're willing to let you into the White Club, and you're turning us down?
What the hell's the matter with you, you ingrate?"  That was 1989-1994.
Hardly a long time ago.  So yes, believe it, Jews are still not considered
white.  If we were, we'd be able to embrace our heritage without *real*
white people getting so angry and uncomfortable.

Ilana Nash
Bowling Green State University
Date: Fri, 28 Sep 2001 08:40:23 -0700
From: Janni Aragon <jaragon AT>
Subject: Jews as non-white
I am sorry, but I did not read Piercy's statement the same way. I read it as
Jews not being white. That is, being the "other."

Janni Aragon
Department of Political Science
University of California Riverside

"I often think that being a feminist minority scholar is what one is
reincarnated into for
being a male chauvinist in a previous life." Shirley Lim, _Among the White
Moon Faces_
Date: Fri, 28 Sep 2001 11:48:34 -0400
From: asma abdelhalim <aa114488 AT OAK.CATS.OHIOU.EDU>
Subject: Re: Jews as non-white
I find this exchange extremely interesting, since treating "Jewish" as a
race or ethnicity is confusing to me.  My education and background
always referred to being Jewish as being a follower of the Torah or
Toraht. Therefore there are black Jews in Ethiopia, white in England and
decendants of Israelites in the Middle East. I suppose it would not be
difficult to classify Jews of Middle Eastern origins as white since the
inhabitants of the whole region, including North Africa are classified
I will be very interested in any literature on how Judaism turned into
an ethnicity or nationality, and replaced Hebrew or Israelite.  My
interest stems from the fact that certain Muslim circles are trying to
turn Islam into something that replaces nationality, citizenship and
ethnicity, which of course is impossible for the time being.
Date: Fri, 28 Sep 2001 14:01:09 -0400
From: Daphne Patai <daphne.patai AT SPANPORT.UMASS.EDU>
Subject: Re: Jews as non-white
"Non-white" as a synonym for presumptive racism -- as Maccah's message has
it -is still an inappropiate concept.  There is plenty of racism in the
non-Caucasian world and it is not against "non-whites," obviously.  To
recast the discussion as one between the white and non-white world is, I
think, very myopic, but it does feed  the tendency to idealize the non-white
world and to vilify the white one - a gross oversimplification and
inaccurate version of the history of the world.

daphne.patai  AT
Date: Fri, 28 Sep 2001 14:04:09 -0400
From: Arnold Kahn <kahnas AT JMU.EDU>
Subject: Jews as non-white
I love this discussion.  Although I am considered "white" by others in our
society, I identify myself as Jewish.  I feel as though I'm a member of an
ethnic group.  I enjoy the benefits of the white label, to be sure, but I
don't use that label for myself.  I don't think it's a matter of either
being "white" or "non-white;" one can be both or neither.


Arnie Kahn   Day 540-568-3963   Night 540-434-0225   Fax 540-568-3322
kahnas  AT
Dept. of Psych.-MSC 7401, James Madison U., Harrisonburg, VA 22807
Date: Fri, 28 Sep 2001 13:16:59 -0400
From: hagolem <hagolem AT C4.NET>
Subject: Re: Jews as non-white
At 11:11 AM 9/28/01 -0400, you wrote:
>Marge Piercy's statement clearly reveals that "non-white" is being used
>metaphorically, to mean "discriminated against."  It makes no sense to speak
>of Caucasian gays, the Irish, or most  American Jews [leaving room always
>for racial diversity of particular  Jewish communities around the world] as
>"non-white" - however discriminated against they were in certain historical
>periods and plales.  But it is an interesting indication of the current
>value attached to  the words 'white' and 'non-white.'
I recommend again the Karen Brodkin book I cited earlier.  I have been
doing a fair amount of research on certain aspects of the 19th century, and
no, Jews were not considered white.  Neither were Italians.  Neither were
many Mediterranean peoples.  This is not metaphor but simply the racist
attitudes of the time, which were even broader in their hatred than the
racism of our time. I recommend any of the 19th century racists to you for
the attitudes I allude to.
Date: Fri, 28 Sep 2001 12:51:12 -0400
From: mam39 AT CORNELL.EDU
Subject: Re: Jews as non-white
Hello All,
I feel it is important to answer the question "what does it mean
to refer to Jews as non-white?"

The idea of Jews as non-white refers to a particular type of
discrimination, discrimination based on ideas of race.  If one adopts
certain racist beliefs (for example that intelligence is linked to skin
color)  anybody who falls into certain categories will automatically have
certain intellectual/character traits.  These traits are believed to be
immutable, they cannot be changed by environment because they are carried
on the genes.  Thus the idea of "Jews as non-white" plays into ideas of
race and racism.  One must first belief in the categories of race as they
are constructed by whomever (Eugenics movements, current Aryan Nation).
Generally the pinnacle of race (as conceived of by these types of groups)
is "white."  Therefore, to put it simply, "white" is best and anything
non-white is lesser.  Each type of non-white will be assigned a mythology
of flaws, flaws which are unchangeable because they are carried on the
genetic material.  Thus we have discrimination and racism, that for those
who belief in it, is a part of, and made necessary by the "the natural

The idea of "Jews as non-white" does not refer to expected skin shades,
it refers to a racialized construction of anti-semitism.

When working to understand different types of discrimination it is
important to understand where they stem from, and how they work.  Also,
this discussion is not only about "current value attached to the words
'white and non-white'.  This discussion is the clarification of an
historical (and unfortunately, in some circles current) form of


p.s. The Irish were also considered non-white for many years.
Date: Fri, 28 Sep 2001 14:17:11 -0400
From: Liora Moriel <lioram AT WAM.UMD.EDU>
Subject: Re: Jews as non-white
I second Marge Piercy et al.: Jews were not "white" until after WWII (and
later--please read Joan Nestle's excellent book, RESTRICTED COUNTRY). But
this issue raises an interesting point: in what ways is Jewish
"whitification" different from that of Italians, Irish, Germans etc.? And
why is the "white"-skinned non-white (esp. Black) never seen/accepted
as white? I think there are many topics to explore about the social
construction of these categories "white" and "non-white" (my own research
looks at just that, by focusing on Jews in film and fiction in the early
20th century).

Liora Moriel
Comparative Literature Program
2107 Susquehanna Hall
University of Maryland
College Park, MD 20742-8825
"We had come together like elements erupting into an electric storm,
exchanging energy, sharing charge, brief and drenching.  Then we parted,
passed, reformed, reshaping ourselves the better for the exchange
.. her imprint remains upon my life with the resonance and power of
an emotional tattoo." -- Audre Lorde
Date: Fri, 28 Sep 2001 11:56:19 -0700
From: Sally Markowitz <smarkowi AT WILLAMETTE.EDU>
Subject: Re: Jews as non-white
Simply to assume that Ashkenazi Jews are white, and that Judaism is merely
a religion, is to engage in a kind of historical amnesia that ignores an
essential period (18th - 19th century) in the construction of modern
racism during which fantasies of the Jews as a racial group played an
important part. Indeed, racialist theorists of this period routinely
compared the moral and physical attributes -- including sex/gender
attributes -- of non-European "races" (i.e., Jews, ARabs, Africans,
Chinese, etc.), and many of these associations linger on in the popular
Western imagination.

I have recently noticed that some Jews are eager to be classified as
white; I have also heard a number of converts to Judaism insist
that Jewishness is a religion. That, understandably, raises eyebrows among
those of us who, regardless of how religious we are, have suffered
anti-Semitism for the way we look, talk, etc. And while the Nazis
may have had no great love for the Torah, atheists or converts of
jewish ancestry did not escape the fate of the religious.

So -- there is no fact to the matter about whether Jews,as Jews, are
white; or if there is a fact, it is as historically situated,
ideologically charged, and fluid as the category of whiteness itself. As
for anti-Semitism, unfortunately it may be able to outlas the form of
racism on which it depended in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Sally Markowitz * Department of Philosophy * Willamette University *
        Salem, OR 97301 * 503-370-6428
Date: Fri, 28 Sep 2001 16:37:21 -0400
From: Marc Sacks <msacks AT WORLD.STD.COM>
Subject: Re: Jews as non-white
asma abdelhalim wrote:

>I find this exchange extremely interesting, since treating "Jewish" as a
>race or ethnicity is confusing to me.  My education and background
>always referred to being Jewish as being a follower of the Torah or
>Toraht. Therefore there are black Jews in Ethiopia, white in England and
>decendants of Israelites in the Middle East. I suppose it would not be
>difficult to classify Jews of Middle Eastern origins as white since the
>inhabitants of the whole region, including North Africa are classified
>I will be very interested in any literature on how Judaism turned into
>an ethnicity or nationality, and replaced Hebrew or Israelite.

Jews are certainly not a "race," except to Nazis and other rabid
antisemites. Judaism encompasses a people entered into by birth or
formal religious conversion; a religious belief system united by shared
texts, practices, and values though admitting many variations of
interpretation; a culture (or actually several, such as Ashkenazic or
Eastern European, Sephardic or Spanish, and Oriental or Asian), with
unique foods, music, folkways, and languages; and a nation (Israel, and
the diaspora conceived in terms of a nation in exile). Many people of no
religious belief still consder themselves Jewish because of their
cultural attachments, and are considered so by religious authorities
because of their birth to a Jewish mother.

In an effort to combine all of this into one concept, Mordecai Kaplan, a
Conservative rabbi who started what is now the Reconstructionist
movement in Judaism, referred to "Judaism as a Civilization." His book
of that title, written in 1935, still serves as an excellent description
of the many facets of Judaism, as well as providing a snapshot of
(especially American) Jewish life of that time. If the intracacies of
Jewish practices are unfamiliar to you and outside your interests, you
can skip over much of the book and still grasp what Jewish civilization
is about.

Marc Sacks
msacks  AT
Date: Fri, 28 Sep 2001 10:42:36 -0700
From: mirandda <mirandda AT PLU.EDU>
Subject: Re: Jews as non-white >===== Original Message From Women's Studies List <WMST-L AT UMDD.UMD.EDU> =====
>At 11:11 AM 9/28/01 -0400, you wrote:
>>Marge Piercy's statement clearly reveals that "non-white" *is* [my emphasis]
being used
>>metaphorically, to mean "discriminated against."  It makes no sense to speak
>>of Caucasian gays, the Irish, or most  American Jews [leaving room always
>>for racial diversity of particular  Jewish communities around the world] as
>>"non-white" - however discriminated against they were in certain historical
>>periods and plales.  But it is an interesting indication of the current
>>value attached to  the words 'white' and 'non-white.'

The key word here:  "is."  Currently, perhaps, some folks do use 'non-white'
metaphorically, since we are all well-informed as to the non-existance of
different 'races.'  However, that has not historically been the case.  In
textbooks as well as in society, academia, and scientific communities, there
was long believed to be a genetic difference that accounted for perceived
physical differences in hair, eyes, skin, etc.  Until very recently, when
people said 'non-white' in describing Jews or the Irish, they literally meant
'not genetically the same as a generic person of Northern European origin.'
(Sadly, I run into student every semester who still think this is the case.)
This, I think, is what we mean when we say 'non-white' now.  What 'makes' a
person 'white' or 'non-white'??  I'd say, the historical uses of those very

It is because of the historical discrimination against those of 'non-white'
origins that we must have this discussion about who is and isn't white, who
does and doesn't look white, and who does or doesn't attach an innate value to
the words 'white' and 'non-white.'  In other words, we are using the values
attached to these descriptions precisely because those values have brought
about the conditions that make it necessary to speak.  It doesn't mean that we
are buying into the values, though I agree we must always keep that in mind.
It does mean, however, that the impact of such valuation, and the future
impact of such valuation, cannot be ignored for fear of re-inscribing them.


Pacific Lutheran University
Admin. 222-J
<mirandda  AT>
Date: Fri, 28 Sep 2001 12:05:17 -0400
From: Beth Farmer <bfarmer AT PSU.EDU>
Subject: Re: Jews as non-white
    Actually, there's nothing current-valueish about it.  The historical
records genuinely show the groups you mention originally described as
non-white in statutes and cases, though current descriptions are to the
contrary.  I can cite you to some law review articles written by law
professor types tracing the changes if you are interested, although I know
these articles are out of the fields many of you teach in.  Beth Farmer

At 11:11 AM 9/28/01 -0400, you wrote:
>Marge Piercy's statement clearly reveals that "non-white" is being used
>metaphorically, to mean "discriminated against."  It makes no sense to speak
>of Caucasian gays, the Irish, or most  American Jews [leaving room always
>for racial diversity of particular  Jewish communities around the world] as
>"non-white" - however discriminated against they were in certain historical
>periods and plales.  But it is an interesting indication of the current
>value attached to  the words 'white' and 'non-white.'

Susan Beth Farmer            bfarmer  AT
Professor    of Law  
Penn State Univ.            (717) 240-5278
Dickinson Law School
150 S. College St.
Carlisle, PA 17013
Date: Fri, 28 Sep 2001 11:45:09 -0700
From: "Ms. Cat" <alanamscat AT>
Subject: Re: Jews as non-white
Actually, just speaking scientifically, it makes
exactly as much sense - whiteness is a complete
construct of society, and indeed Russians, Jews and
Irish were long considered not to be white, and
growing up (especially when I was *very* young), I
never had a sense of myself being white, simply
because in many ways, I was treated by other students
as if I weren't. My friends ended up being mostly
people of various colors.
Now, it is worth noting that no one treated me as
though I were African-American either, perhaps because
I grew up in suburban Maryland, rather than urban
Michigan, and in the 70's.
I think whether one is white while being Jewish and
Ashkenazi (And let us not forgot that there are lots
of Jews in the country who are not Ashkenazi, but
MIzrachi -i.e. African, Semitic, and subcontinental
Indian, not to mention Asian, Native American and
African-American, whether by conversion or birth, who
are not what we would call "white" even if we were to
insist that Ashkenazi Jews are white) is *still*
strongly dependant upon where in the country one
And let us not forget that Jews were defined racially
for quite along time -this is not some new invention -
not even an invention of Hitler, but goes back to our
own texts and self-definitions historically.
 The elision between being a Hebrew nation, and a
Jewish diaspora was never addressed whether there was
any difference, partially because of the way we
thought of ourselves, and partially because of the way
Christians thought of us (Notably, this was not a
problem in Islamic lands, where the idea of a racial
taint for intermarrying with converted Jews was not
anything like that we find regularly in Christian
ones). For example of jewish self-definition racially
see Yehuda Ha-Levi on the idea. Pretty racist stuff -
and he definitely thinks that we are a race.

Alana Suskin
alanamscat  AT
Date: Fri, 28 Sep 2001 19:12:56 -0400
From: Daphne Patai <daphne.patai AT SPANPORT.UMASS.EDU>
Subject: Jews as non-white
I notice that all respondents have focused on Jews and have not commented on
the larger context, which is that racism and racial discrimination (not to
mention discrimination of other kinds) occur in many different parts of the
world and are not confined to the categories white and non-white.

daphne.patai  AT
Date: Fri, 28 Sep 2001 20:52:35 -0400
From: Clare Holzman <clare.holzman AT VERIZON.NET>
Subject: Re: Jews as non-white
I would add to Marge Piercy's reply that it isn't necessary to go back as
far as the 19th century for evidence that Jews were not considered white. I
know Jews who, as recently as the 1940's, were refused accommodations at
hotels in the South because they were Jewish. They were identified as
Jewish because they had "kinky" hair and "swarthy" complections.

When I was growing up, also in the 1940's, in the aftermath of the
Holocaust, my parents admonished me not to get the idea that I was white,
and to ally myself with people of color, because the people with the power
to define and to enforce their definitions did not consider me white, and
when the KKK rode, they would be after both the Negroes and the Jews.

Later, I had to learn to recognize that I also enjoy white skin privilege
and that to be a Jew in the United States today is not at all the same as
to be an African American.

In teaching about these issues, I think it is helpful to teach that who is
white depends on the context and has changed over the course of history.

Clare Holzman
330 West 58th Street, 404
New York, NY 10019
phone 212 245 7282
fax 718 721 9313
clare.holzman  AT
Date: Fri, 28 Sep 2001 19:16:00 -0600
From: benay blend <blend AT NM.NET>
Subject: Re: Jews as non-white
I have not been following this discussion, so I hope that I am not
repeating what has already been said. To the Klan and the Skinheads we
(Jewish people) were and are still described as Mud People. I'm not sure
how much further non-white one can get.
Benay Blend
blend  AT
Date: Fri, 28 Sep 2001 17:31:24 -0700
From: Marilyn Edelstein <MEdelstein AT SCU.EDU>
Subject: Re: Jews as non-white
For a while now, I've thought of Jews as "beige." I hope no one
minds if I quote part of a lengthy footnote (on race, whiteness, and
Jewishness) from an article I published on bell hooks a few years
ago (in _Other Sisterhoods_, ed. Sandra Kumamoto Stanley):

  "Perhaps as a Jew in the U.S., I am especially open to a
deconstruction of racial identity, since I believe Jews occupy a
liminal space--neither truly white (ask any white supremacist) nor
people of color, since most of us would acknowledge our white skin
privilege and, in America at least, relative economic privilege and
lack of overt discrimination against us.  Yet we may recall that,
even during the era of the Civil Rights Movement, there were still
some opportunities closed to Jews, too, in the U.S. (in jobs,
housing, college admissions, etc.).
    And it's worth noting the increasing number of anti-Semitic
incidents in the U.S. and around the world. Some might see
"Jewishness" not as racial but as religious. The Nazis, though,
certainly viewed Jewishness as racial, as a matter of blood, not
religious choice. Perhaps most American and European Jews "pass" as
white--until times get tough or people get mean (or anxious).
(Obviously, there are also Jews of color, e.g, Ethiopian Jews and
African-American converts to Judaism.)
    I've taken to calling myself and other [white] Jews "beige"--a
shade between whiteness and other colors.  And I believe that if I
ever visit the town in Latvia from which all four of my grandparents
hailed, I would not be welcomed as a Latvian but seen as a Jew, a
foreigner, a racial "other." We legitimately see what has happened,
since slavery, to so many people of African descent as a "diaspora,"
but it's important to remember the "original" diaspora of Jews
centuries before."

Marilyn Edelstein
Associate Professor of English, Santa Clara University, Santa Clara CA
Date: Sat, 29 Sep 2001 00:05:14 -0400
From: mildred g <dredking AT HOTMAIL.COM>
Subject: Re: Jewish women of color publication
Seeing what the topic is recently I wanted to send this info in case anyone
is interested, Blessings, Dred Gerestant...

>Bridges, a multicultural Jewish feminist publication has
>just published a Jewish women of color issue. If you wanna order it /
>find out more, you can log on to their website at
> to check it out. They also did a Sefard  /
>Mizrahi issue a while back as well.

Dred Gerestant
e-mail:  dredking  AT
web site:
voicemail/hotline:  1-212-946-4475
Date: Sat, 29 Sep 2001 00:21:33 -0400
From: Jane Rothstein <jane_rothstein AT MINDSPRING.COM>
Subject: Re: Jews as non-white
In response to Asma: "Jewish" is an ethnicity, and not only or necessarily a
religious identification, in the United States for several reasons.  One,
historically (at least since about the late 19th century) and today there
are many Jews in the U.S. who are marginally or unaffiliated religiously but
identify as Jews culturally (e.g., involvement with Yiddish culture,
sometimes with radical Yiddish culture & politics, such as the Workmen's
Circle; identification with Jewish history & values; affiliation with
Humanistic Judaism, an atheistic Jewish movement; or simply disaffection
from organized Judaism, but continued attachment to Jewish culture).  Two,
most (though definitely not all) Jews in the U.S. today are descendents of
either Eastern European Jews, who immigrated to the U.S. during the period
of mass southern and eastern European immigration c. 1880-1924, or of
European Jews who came to the U.S. during or after the Holocaust.  All of
the former and the vast majority of the latter would be Ashkenazi Jews,
many, if not most, of whom came from a certain geographic region (Eastern &
Central Europe), spoke a particular vernacular (Yiddish; though many also or
instead spoke German, Russian, Polish, etc.), and had specific social
customs in regard to such things as food, dress, marriage & family, etc.
Because this group and their descendents were the majority of Jews in the
U.S., "Jewish" in the U.S. came to be shorthand for Ashkenazi Jews and is as
much descriptive of non-religious social customs, cultural productions, and
demographic patterns as it is of religious affiliation or practice.  Maybe
more so.  In Jewish studies today, most of those working on the modern
period make a distinction between "Judaism" and "Jewishness," noting that
while the overlap between religion and ethnicity is huge among Jews, it's
not complete.  Of course, this distinction creates its own problems.  There
is a huge literature on Jewish ethnicity, of which I am most familiar with
the historical lit.  If you send me a note off-list, I'd be happy to share

In response to Daphne (at least her first message earlier in the day): Yes,
certainly, most American Jews have white skin.  However, even if we're just
talking about the person-on-the-street's reaction to race, we know that it's
not just about color, but many other factors as well.  Take body image, for
example: Jewish women have often felt or been made to feel not-quite-white
because of the wrong shaped nose; hair that was kinky or "too" curly or
simply dark; full lips; dark, not blue, eyes; or large breasts (the Jewish
feminist magazine _Lilith_ has had articles on all of these body issues in
the last 3-4 years).  In terms of historical understandings of whiteness in
the U.S., skin color was not always the only factor involved, just the most
obvious outward sign.  Other factors included class status (the
"underclass"), citizenship status, physical proximity to other
"undesirables" and behaviors thought to be hereditarily predetermined (the
lusty French, the violent Italians, the drunken Irish, the wily Chinese, and
the Jews, who, on the anti-Semitic side were considered miserly and
clannish, and on the philo-Semitic side consistently smart and possessors of
an idyllic home life).  So for many decades (19th cent.-Reconstruction), yes
the Irish were considered non-white, not black, but definitely not white
(see the work of David Roediger and Alexander Saxton [I believe this is the
correct spelling], for example).  Italians and other southern and
Mediterranean European immigrants (late 19th-early 20th cent.) were
considered among the "darker races."  And, for many and for a long time,
Jews were often considered non-white; again, not black, but not quite white.
 [For those interested, Eric Goldstein, who now teaches at Emory, wrote a
really wonderful dissertation on American Jews & race (U. Michigan, history,
2000) and has an article I highly recommend: "'Different Blood Flows In Our
Veins': Race and Jewish Self-Definition in Late Nineteenth-Century America,"
_American Jewish History_ vol. 85, no. 1 (March 1997), 29-55.]


Jane Rothstein,
Ph.D. Candidate
Department of History and
Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies
New York University
jr231  AT
jane_rothstein  AT

"Racing between mysticism and revolution..."
                     -- Phil Ochs
Date: Sat, 29 Sep 2001 00:31:59 -0400
From: Rosa Maria Pegueros <rpe2836u AT POSTOFFICE.URI.EDU>
Subject: Jews as non-white
Thank you for the excellent opportunity to plug the newest issue of
"Bridges, the Journal for
Jewish Feminists and our Friends." Volume 9, #1 is a special issue entitled 
"Writing and Art by Jewish Women of Color."  I was one of the guest editors.  

Blurb from the editor's press release (table of contents follows):
If your mental image of "Jewish" is synonymous with "white," prepare
yourself for a paradigm shift. If you are one of the 400,000 Jews of color
in the United States, you already know how hard it has been to find you and
your family represented in the media. That is beginning to change, and
Bridges: A Journal for Jewish Feminists and Our Friends is adding to the
momentum. The first ever collection of writing and art by Jewish women of
color-- Jewish women of African, Latina, Asian, and Native American
heritages--is now available (September 2001) from Bridges. In essays, poetry,
fiction, memoir and visual art this new collection offers readers a chance
to experience the many colored ethnic diversity of the Jewish people through
eyes, hearts and minds of Jewish women.

From anthropologist Katya Gibel Azoulay's examination of the social,
political and legal coincidences of being born Black and Jewish and living
in the United States to a conversation among nine women artists who define
themselves as "Mizrahi" in the Israeli context--coming from Jewish immigrant
families from Muslim countries--readers will gain many new insights on
racism within the Jewish community and the racialization of Jewishness.

When Indian, Ethiopian, Iraqi, and Yemenite Jewish women living in the
United States tell their stories, the effect is to de-center the Ashkenazi
experience, revealing Jewish diversity that refuses classification along
ethnic and racial lines. When African American, Latina and Asian women tell
complex and moving accounts of coming to Judaism--including hidden histories
of Jewish ancestors and connections to Judaism through dance, story, culture
and politics as well as religious beliefùunderstanding of Judaism and
Jewishness expands beyond preconceived boundaries.

The 128 page volume with 26 contributors has been guest edited by Katya
Gibel Azoulay, Siona Benjamin, Carolivia Herron, Shahanna McKinney, Aurora
Levins Morales, Rosa Maria Pegueros and has taken over two years to

-Introduction by Shahanna McKinney

-Peacesong _memoir_, by Carolivia Herron

-Scenes from a Marriage, poem by Hilary Tham

-An Ethiopian _Gilgul_ Come to Life: an interview with Toni Eisendorf by
Reena Bernard

-Moving Women, Moving Me, essay by Dina Dahbany-Miraglia

-Jewishness After Mount Sinai: Jews, Blacks and the (Multi)racial Category,
essay by Katya Gibel Azoulay

-ebony-vermilion stories, poem by Amal Rana

-Sister: Mizrahi Women Artists in Israel, a conversation with art by Sigal
Eshed, Shula Keshet, Ahuva Mu'alem, Shuli Nachshon, Zmira Poran Zion, Dafna
Shalom, Chen Shish, Parvin Shmueli-Buchnik, Orna Zaken

-Finding Home and the Dilemma of Belonging, essay and art by Siona Benjamin

-Incajew: Art by Margo Mercedes Rivara-Weiss

-Of Faith and Fire, essay by Rosa Maria Pegueros

-The Compass of Human Conscience: Notes on Israeli Peace Camp, May 2001,
essay by Molly Malekar

-Elaynesh Zevadia: Israeli, Ethiopian, Diplomat, interview by Siona Benjamin

-Born to be Yemenite, personal narrative by Miri Hunter Haruach

-AframJews Forum: Creation of an Online Community, essay by Tamu Ngina

-Internet Resources on Jews of African Descent

-Reflections of a Jewish Mother, essay by Harriet McKinney

-In the Sudan, Hanukkah Celebration, a village of witches, poems by Mary
Loving Blanchard

-Conversations with a Jinni, story by Lital Levy

-Reviews: Black, White and Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self by
Rebecca Walker, reviewed by Shahanna

-Black, Jewish and Interracial: It's not the color of your skin, but the
race of your kin and other myths of identity by Katya Gibel Azoulay,
reviewed by Shahanna McKinney

Clare Kinberg, Bridges Managing Editor    
(541)343-7617 or (888)359-9188
ckinberg  AT
PO Box 24839, Eugene OR 97402
Orders only: (888)359-9188
Wholesale terms available

Suggested subscription is $18 for two issues, published every 9 months,
more if you can, less if you can't. 
Available free to women in prison, nursing homes, and mental institutions.
Also available free on tape to print-disabled subscribers from the Jewish
Braille Institute.

Rosa Maria Pegueros, J.D., Ph.D.
Women's Studies Program &       Washburn Hall, 217C
Department of History           E-mail:
University of Rhode Island      <rpe2836u  AT>
80 Upper College Road, Suite 3  Telephone: (401) 874-4092     
Kingston, RI 02881                    Fax: (401) 874-2595

"I have learned from my teachers and from my colleagues. But
I have learned the most from my students." --Rabbi Hanina

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