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Are Jews Black?

March 1, 2021 – 17 Adar 5781

How things change! The current debate about the idea put forward by Marc Dollinger in the new introduction to his Black Power, Jewish Politicsthat there are elements of “white supremacy” in the lived experience of American Jews, has left me bemused. The notion that Jews, of all people, are now being labeled as significant historical beneficiaries of “white privilege” seems a curious turnabout.

For hundreds of years in Europe there were horribly influential strands of belief that insisted that Jews were somatically as well as metaphorically Black. The discovery of actual Black Jews during the period of the Enlightenment confirmed the association Jews were thought to have with Blacks. Racist anthropology throughout the 19th century and early 20th centuries and during the period of Nazi domination of Europe sought to demonstrate that Jews had Black skin, Black blood, and Black origins. So where does this new controversy come from?

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