The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Few American Jews are non-White, but a new poll shows that is likely to change

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The vast majority of American Jews are non-Hispanic Whites, and some view Ashkenazi or European Judaism as the “norm.” But the racial makeup of the American Jewish population looks like it might change, and with that, perceptions of what being Jewish looks like could change as well.

A Pew Research Center poll among a random sample of 4,718 Jewish Americans released last week found 92 percent of American Jews overall identify as White, while 4 percent are Hispanic, 1 percent are Black and 3 percent identify with another race or ethnicity.

But younger Jews are far more likely to say they are not White. In all, 15 percent of Jewish adults in the United States under 30 years old are Hispanic, Black, Asian, another non-White race or multiracial, along with 12 percent of Jews ages 30 to 39. That compares with just 4 percent of Jews ages 50 to 64 who are non-White and 3 percent of those 65 and older.

Looking at a broader definition of diversity, 28 percent of Jewish adults under 30 years old either identify as non-White, are Sephardic (following Jewish customs from Spain) or Mizrahi (following Jewish customs of the Middle East and North Africa), or are immigrants or children of immigrants from places other than Canada, Europe or the former Soviet Union. That compares with 7 percent of all Jews living in the United States who are 65 years old or older.

During the Jewish High Holidays, there’s a growing awareness that not all U.S. Jews are white

And even if an American Jew does not personally identify as someone of another race, 13 percent of Jews in America live in multiracial households.

“People are finally waking up to the fact that our Jewish community is quite multicultural,” Rabbi Angela Buchdahl of Central Synagogue in New York City told Pew. Buchdahl, the first Asian American ordained as a rabbi, said that making assumptions based on people’s race can make Jews of color feel unwelcome. Saying that someone “doesn’t look Jewish” can be “off-putting to people of color. It makes them feel like a stranger in their own home, like they don’t really belong.”

Several national organizations exist to address issues of racial diversity in Judaism, including Jews in ALL Hues, Jews of Color Initiative and the Jewish Multiracial Network.

“I hope that a more diverse Jewish population will be perceived as the norm. The Jewish people have always been diverse. We just don’t get to see it because for so long here in America the stories of Jews of Color have not been told,” Joshua Maxey, a Black Jewish 28 year-old who is active in the Jewish community in D.C., told The Washington Post. “We must continue to educate ourselves about what it means to be Jewish, especially here in America so that Jews of Color do not feel isolated within Jewish spaces.”

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