Are Jews white?

“There’s really no conclusion except that it’s complicated,” said Goldstein. This is not the kind of question that searches for an answer, though. It’s a question designed to illuminate. It can be difficult to understand why many, although not all, Jews are scared of what’s to come in a Trump administration. Even Goldstein, who studies Judaism and anti-Semitism for a living, said he finds it “hard to believe … that Jews are in any real danger of losing their status in American society. Jews today are integrated into all of the mainstream institutions of American life: They’ve held the presidencies of all the major universities that once restricted their entrance; they are disproportionately represented in all the branches of government.”

And yet, no matter how much prestige Jews may amass, their status is always ambiguous. “White” is not a skin color, but a category marking power. American Jews do have power, but they are also often viewed with suspicion; and having power is no assurance of protection. According to the FBI’s hate-crime statistics, a majority of religiously motivated hate-crime offenses are committed against Jews each year. This has been the case every year since the FBI first began reporting hate-crime statistics in 1995, when more than 80 percent of religiously motivated crimes were against Jews. These days, that percentage is closer to 50 percent—a sign not that Jews are safer, but that other groups have been increasingly targeted.

“It’s not that unprecedented that groups of disillusioned, disaffected populations of workers … lash out and use Jews as a scapegoat for problems that are really caused by a quickly changing society,” said Goldstein. “It is instructive to know that Jews have been in situations in which they were integrated and had status, and that hasn’t necessarily protected them. Sometimes, it makes them vulnerable.”