American Jews: Now you see them, now you don’t

Numbers confirm a 'steep decline' in the Jewish presence in 'academia, Hollywood, Washington, even in New York City'


CAMBRIDGE, MA - JUNE 4: Harvard University students at the School of Education hold up books as their degree is announced during commencement ceremonies June 4, 2009 in Harvard Yard in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Founded in 1636, this year marks the 358th year of graduation ceremonies at the university, considered the oldest in the nation. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

March 09, 2023 14:28

Suddenly, everywhere you look, Jews are disappearing.” Few sentences are as likely to press the collective panic button as this one, which opened The Vanishing, a piece on Tablet magazine’s website this week.

Its author, Jacob Savage, describes how Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) policies are driving a “steep decline” in the Jewish presence in “academia, Hollywood, Washington, even in New York City”.

The numbers confirm it. Historically, about 20 per cent of federal judges have been Jewish. Among Joe Biden’s appointees, it’s 8 to 9 per cent.

Ten years ago, New York City had “five Jewish congressmen, a Jewish mayor, two Jewish borough presidents, and 14 Jewish City Council members”. Today, only two congressmen and a single borough president remain.

Ten years ago, there were 22 Jews in the Hollywood Reporter’s annual list of the “Top 50 Showrunners”.

In 2022, there were 13. Apart from Maggie Gyllenhaal (“half-Jewish” and “already famous”, Savage notes), it’s been six years since a Jew appeared in Variety magazine’s annual “Ten Directors to Watch” list.

Twenty years ago, Harvard was 25 per cent Jewish. It’s now less than 10 per cent, lower than it was in the bad old days of the quota.

Only 7 per cent of students at Ivy League colleges are Jewish. The Jewish presence among Guggenheim Fellows has halved. Jews have almost disappeared from the rolls of Marshall Fellows and the MacArthur Fellowship class (the “genius grant”).

Jewish Americans are losing their footing at the top of American life like Hemingway’s bankrupt: gradually, then suddenly.

Savage detects a “slow-moving downward trend” from the 1990s to the mid-2010s, probably caused by “all sorts of normal sociological factors” — and then a “purge so sweeping and dramatic you almost wonder who sent out the secret memo”.

There is no secret memo. It’s all being said openly. Twentieth-century liberalism believed in the rights of the individual, equality of opportunity and merit-based reward. This allowed Jews to assimilate entirely and rise to the heights, and it was why they voted en masse for the Democrats.

Twenty-first-century liberalism believes in collective “equity” of outcome, not equality of individual opportunity. It believes in skin-deep “diversity”, not in merit, and in symbolic “inclusion”, with representation calibrated with the calipers of modern race theory.

This system is doctrine in the Democratic Party, and is enforced by the federal government.
David Baddiel has suggested on Twitter that Jews are “collateral” damage in this top-down re-sorting of American society, because they are “invisible” whites.

No one is “invisible” in America. Every form you fill out insists you register your ethnicity. Every university and job application requires it, too.

Liberalism, the civic religion of most Jewish Americans, has turned on the Jews. As Savage writes, “To even suggest that a 15-20 per cent Jewish undergraduate student body might be acceptable in a country in which Jews make up 2.4 per cent of the total population is anathema in today’s liberal society.”

Jews aren’t collateral to the overthrow of “whiteness”, whatever that means in America. Jews are the prime target, because Jewish success defies the arithmetic of DEI. That makes Jewish success, like Jewish obduracy, an obstacle to the redemption of humanity.

Liberalism has also turned on those pesky high achievers, the Asian Americans. Yet when an Asian American group sued Harvard for allegedly anti-Asian discrimination in admissions, the Anti-Defamation League filed an amicus brief in Harvard’s defence.

A “slow-moving pressure system” is squeezing Jews out of the upper echelons. The major Jewish institutions are not just failing to meet the challenge: they are clinging on to their own shrinking privilege.

The future for the mass of middle-class, assimilated Jewish Americans is, Savage thinks, “an anxiety of exclusion and downward mobility”.

Another Tablet article, by Eric Kaufmann of the LSE, confirms much of Savage’s analysis. Kaufmann concentrates on demography. As Asian Americans rise, they tend to accommodate to their patrons, just as Jews did before them.

As DEI pushes Jews out of the elite, assimilation and the growth of Orthodoxy are pushing a demographic and political transition. Jewish Americans under the age of 30 prefer the Republicans. While Savage talks of one kind of “erasure” and Baddiel detects the collateral damage of “invisibility”, Jews are in fact becoming more visible.

The Orthodox look different, and as the politics of New York City show, they already function as a collective in the great American spoils system.

I’ll return to this next week, and especially to Kaufmann’s piece. For now, I’ll conclude that it’s not looking good for the average upper-middle-class, assimilated Jewish American. The old image of Jewish America is as dated as one of Jerry Seinfeld’s sweaters.

March 09, 2023 14:28

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