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Session 5

The complexity of Jewish identity and race in America

This session examines ways we discuss race, racism, color, and diversity within the Jewish community. We will explore different ways to consider race, color, and Jewish ethnic identity in both an American and a larger Jewish context. 


How Jack Became Black movie? Trailer:



Participants will know:

Participants will be able to:

  • Discuss diversity in the Jewish community: complications and solutions 


Enduring Understanding

  • Some American Jews have accepted a single view of race and racism. However, there is more than one way of understanding Jewish diversity and examining race and racism in a Jewish context. 
  • Color-based racial categories, commonly used in the United States, do not capture the full complexity of Jewish identity and ignore the ethno-religious character of Jewish identity. 

Essential Questions

  • What does Judaism say about race and diversity? 
  • Is the common anti-racist/DEI framework the right approach for addressing diversity within the Jewish community? What are other ways of thinking about it?
  • Should American Jews be considered white and/or consider themselves white? How should/are Jews defined in terms of race/ethnicity?
  • Does assimilation into the dominant “white” culture impact racial identity in the American Jewish community? If so, how?
  • How do we address racial diversity within the Jewish community?
  • What does it mean to be a “Jew of Color”? 
    • What are some implications for the Jewish community of identity terminology like “Jews of Color,” and “White Jews” are used? 
    • If there are “Jews of Color” does that mean that there are “White Jews”?
  • Do the experiences of Jews of Color parallel the experiences of People of Color in the larger American society.

Watch in-session as a large group: Campus argument goes viral as Evergreen State is caught in racial turmoil – HBO Vice News

Discuss how/if the pre-session materials address the following: 

  • Do Critical Race ideologies fuel antisemitism and anti-Zionism? If so, how?  
  • Should Jews participate in social justice movements? What are the potential tradeoffs of being involved or not being involved? Does Tikkun Olam belong to one ideological camp? If not, how might we think about the various ways Jews can express a commitment to making the world a better place?