Steven Windmueller
Where Jews and Judaism Meet the Political Road!

From Post-Modernism to Intersectionality: Challenging Jewish Sensibilities

Several weeks ago, I had occasion to explore elsewhere three core political ideas, national conservatism, populism, and Christian NationalismIn this essay, we want to consider several additional political models, post-modernism, critical race theory, and intersectionality.  These three ideas are joined together by a shared criticism of the existing political scene.

A central feature of post-modernism is a desire to deconstruct the social order. In connection with these ideas, the individual is seen as not as part of a class structure, but as individual persons deprived of their status and role, due to the self-interests and racist policies of the entrenched leadership class.

In identity politics, one’s gender, race, and sexual preference are identified as core elements. “Dominant white males, heterosexuals, capitalists” are seen as part of the entrenched ruling power elites that need to be removed. The post-modernist focus is on reducing inequalities, transforming power structures, and downgrading institutions of domination. The liberation of the powerless then represents a central tenet of these political movements.

In this context, Jews are seen as “white” and powerful and by extension a part of the oppressor class.  When one adds the Israel equation into this conversation, the Jewish State is defined as “colonialist”, Zionism as racist, and Jewish settlers as foreign invaders.

Intersectionality addresses the shared political experiences of marginal groups.  Jews, however, are dismissed as no longer a recognized minority, portraying us rather as representative of an “exploitative, structurally racist group.”

In tracing the origins of how and when the case against Israel would incorporate intersectionality, we can find its roots in the 1967 War:

Demonstrating how intersectionality would operate before anyone knew the concept, Arab students attempted to align themselves with other dissident groups on campus at the 1967 conference of the Organization of Arab Students. They specifically expressed solidarity with the anti-war movement (Vietnam) and built a relationship with black students by joining their call for the liberation of South Africa and other African nations and comparing the Palestinian struggle ‘against Zionist invasion and exploitation’ to the resistance of Afro-Americans to inequality in America. The students also objected to ‘equating any criticism of Israel or any support of Arab rights as anti-Semitic’.”

In introducing CRT (Critical Race Theory), we identify another ideological and political challenge for our society:

“Race Theory simplistically erases the uniqueness of the Jewish experience and identifies Jews as “white”, CRT’s oppressor class. In fact, CRT often considers Jews to be the epitome of white privilege and supremacy. By falsely maligning Zionism as racism, anti-Zionism, and the movement to dismantle the State of Israel become an ideological imperative and central tenet in the larger struggle against racism, sexism, homophobia, and other forms of oppression.”

The exclusion of global antisemitism from anti-racist intersectional analyses has meant that Jews are dismissed as a minority that has been racially persecuted and murdered for centuries. Nor is Israel seen as a refuge for Jews worldwide after the Shoah. Instead, in this scenario, Jews appear as part of the existing dominant racist class, and Israel is labeled as a bastion of Western imperialism in the Middle East.

For Jewish students who are exposed to these ideas that are being introduced in college course materials and as part of the organizing initiatives of some campus and communal activists, they are immediately confronted with their own marginalization and the delegitimization of Israel.

In the political marketplace, there is a particular ease, almost a level of comfortability, to be able to link all marginalized societies and peoples together, to explain human behavior. Likewise, the ability to understand racism and racist policies becomes simplified if one is afforded a unified theory about white suppression and economic control. That is what these three sets of ideas seek to accomplish. These political themes are not only prevalent in the university environment but increasingly are the centerpiece of the progressive left’s political agenda.


 What we know is that there are distinctive historic factors and particular policies that describe the unique experiences of how different peoples and civilizations have operated in the world. The move to frame a coherent, uniform theory of the human condition is both problematic and dismissive to the pertinent stories and lives for both individuals and groups. This is especially true for Jews. These political messages are designed to separate out Jews and Israel as somehow operating outside of this perceived shared global condition.

We will need to construct responses that repudiate this Neo-Marxist view, as we respond to these specific challenges:

  • As white persons, Jews are identified as racist, powerful, and exploitive.
  • Jews are seen as unacceptable political partners or allies, due to their political and economic standing.
  • Zionism is seen as a colonialist, racist notion.
  • Israel is defined as a Western colonialist enterprise.

All of this suggests that to reframe the Jewish case and to reinstate the Zionist cause, there will need to be an assertive and coherent message.

Building a robust case for Zionism that aligns with the specific generational orientation of Gen Z’ers, as an example, will be essential. This is where such initiatives as Amanda Berman and Zioness (,  Rabbi Daniel Brenner and Moving Traditions,, and Jonathan Kessler and his organization, Heart of a Nation, are attempting to provide  in helping younger Jews to connect with Zionism and the State of Israel.

The writings of such folks as Zach Bodner,, Alex Sinclair, author of the book, Loving the Real Israel,;
and Dan Sokatch and his book, Can We Talk About Israel?, among others need to be introduced.

As Bodner argues in his work “transcending differences” that unity does not imply uniformity. Zionism 3.0, an initiative that Bodner has helped to create, is being built around three pillars, bring Jews from different perspectives together, create constructive, tachlis-based conversations, and focus on what binds Jews together, our shared legacy and destiny.

The creation of new Jewish rituals, putting our Jewish texts online to democratize text study, and the proliferation of cultural Shabbat dinner celebrations are a few examples in finding new ways to make Jewish life meaningful today and to extend the vocabulary of Jewish expression.

Upon reflection, the post-modernist assault on Zionism, Israel and Jews presents a political challenge to the American Jewry. How we move to dispel these misrepresentations of our community will need to be addressed on various levels, most certainly within the political sphere but also on the academic stage and among our partners. Allowed to remain unchecked, it serves as a breeding ground for a new form of anti-Semitism, just as it sadly distorts the case for many communities of color whose agendas and core interests are being hijacked by this movement.










About the Author
Steven Windmueller, Ph.D. is an Emeritus Professor of Jewish Communal Service at the Jack H. Skirball Campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles. Prior to coming to HUC, Dr.Windmueller served for ten years as the JCRC Director of the LA Jewish Federation. Between 1973-1985, he was the director of the Greater Albany Jewish Federation (now the Federation of Northeastern New York). He began his career on the staff of the American Jewish Committtee. The author of four books and numerous articles, Steven Windmueller focuses his research and writings on Jewish political behavior, communal trends, and contemporary anti-Semitism.