The Myth of Jewish-White-Privilege

‘Jewish-White-Privilege’ is a term that has come into vogue in intersectionality supporting enclaves. It refers to the fact that if you are Jewish in America, the assumption is that you are both white, and privileged. That is a false premise, but not an unexpected one, because ignorance abounds about Jews and Jewish history, a history replete with false accusations and misinformation. The cudgel of ‘ignorance’ is the weapon of choice, a convenient excuse for bigotry against the Jews.

As a first-generation American Jew, I find the term offensive because it implies that I have white privilege, which I do not. What I have is white skin. Contrary to claims that I can hide my Jewishness beneath my white skin, is decidedly not true. Because being Jewish is not about my pigment, it is about how I live, what I am, and who I am.

My Jewish origins date back to the same place and time as that of all Jews. My Jewish soul stood at Sinai along with my black, brown, and white brothers. Forced from our home in Jerusalem and shackled with slave chains, only the fall of Rome unshackled and released us into the Diaspora. Scattered throughout the world, like chaff in the wind, we fell on the thresher floor of inhospitable foreign soils, whose denizens swept us into the dustpan of apartheid ghettos throughout Europe and the Middle East.

While in the Diaspora, there was nothing privileged about our denial of citizenship, university entrance, positions in government, or acceptance to professional schools. There was nothing privileged about our expulsion from Italy, England, Hungary, Switzerland, Austria, Bavaria, Portugal, Spain, Germany, and the Papal States.

The pogroms of Russia, Poland, and other European countries did not see our whiteness as they shot, burned, and buried us alive beneath the landscape of their motherlands. Neither did the Nazi monsters and their all too willing accomplices, see our whiteness, while they unceremoniously carted us off to the death camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Chelmno, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, and Majdanek.

Upon landing on the shores of the United States, our whiteness did not exempt us from restrictive quotas denying us entrance to Ivy League universities, jobs in corporate America, membership in ‘for whites only’ clubs, fraternities, and organizations. And a most callous decree, ironically occurred in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, when denied safe harbor in the United States during WWII, as we fled Hitler and his genocidal goons.

Consequently, the term Jewish-white-privilege is offensive, because it conflates my ancestry, heritage and religion with the very people, and cultures who shunned, excluded, persecuted, expelled, and murdered my Jewish family. For the antisemites, there was nothing privileged about me being white, nor could I escape their unwarranted hatred by hiding beneath my white skin.

Jewish-white-privilege is not a term of advantage, but a cruel catchy canard that obscures our history, and a painful trope that leads to divisiveness, thus denying us the comfort and acceptance as a member of the community of inclusiveness. Strike that fictitious expression from the lexicon of good will, for Jewish-white-privilege is a myth.

About the Author
Since retiring from IBM Steve Wenick has served as a freelance book reviewer for HarperCollins Publishing and Simon & Schuster. His reviews and articles have appeared in The Jerusalem Post, The Algemeiner, Jerusalem Online, Philadelphia Inquirer, Attitudes Magazine, and The Jewish Voice of Southern New Jersey. Steve and his wife are residents of Voorhees, New Jersey.
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