In recent years the term "white privilege" has been used by certain segments of the American political spectrum to describe: (wikipedia)

the societal privilege that in some countries benefits white people over non-white people, particularly if they are otherwise under the same social, political, or economic circumstances

However, Jews are vastly proportionally over represented in Congress, the Supreme Court, and in academia and university admissions. Jews currently make up around 2% of the US population (wikipedia)

There are currently 28 Jewish members of the House of representatives (6.4% of membership), 9 Jewish members of the Senate (18%), 3 Jewish Supreme Court Justices (33%), and 4 of the last 5 Federal Reserve Chairmen were Jewish. (wikipedia)(wikipedia)

So, if Jews are so over-represented in positions of power, privilege and elite circles, why is the term "Jewish Privilege" never used to describe that phenomenon?

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    One problem with your question, besides calling to mind allegations of a Jewish conspiracy, is that it employs a sort of rule for classifying someone as Jewish that doesn't match your population percentage. For instance, Michael Bennet is classified as Jewish based on his mother being Jewish (even though his father is Christian). In a primarily Christian society where religious insularity in marriage is much lower than before, the percentage of people with one Jewish parent could be as high as 4%. Also there's no discussion of standard deviations.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Jul 10, 2019 at 12:47
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    I find it problematic that this question was closed. Yes, it discusses a topic that people with racist or anti-semitic tendencies also like to discuss, but it does so in a (IMHO) neutral and balanced way - and it has attracted good answers. I think each question should be judged on its own merits, not on what motives one can read into it. Closing questions based on "perceived intentions" plays into the hands of people who claim that "some things may not even be discussed".
    – sleske
    Commented Jul 19, 2019 at 7:35
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    If "identity-politics" is on-topic, then this question is on-topic. You don't have to agree with the assertion in the question to agree that the question deserves an answer. At least pjc50 actually provided an answer. The other moderators mentioned above here were just obstructionists.
    – Stumbler
    Commented Jul 27, 2019 at 9:47

3 Answers 3


Because that, (given the examples cited), would not be a correct use of the term privilege. The fact that Jewish culture reveres scholarship is advantageous in fields like Law, Medicine, Education, et al, where scholarship is useful; but any culture that was scholarly would have much the same advantages. For those advantages to constitute a privilege those fields would need to be closed off to, or placing obstacles before, well-qualified but non-Jewish aspirants.

Put another way, Italian culture has a gender-blind respect for Mediterranean cooking, but it'd be silly to say there's some special Italian Privilege for Italian men in the restaurant business. The fact that there are few, if any, US Pizza joints featuring Chinese names is interesting, but that's not a consequence of privilege.

Also historically Jews have been persecuted openly and secretly; for generations in the US there were, (and perhaps still are), clubs and colleges that banned or limited qualified Jewish applicants... it was the polar opposite of privilege, and to whatever degree that it's still going on, (or its fallout persists), it seems possible that qualified Jewish aspirants might yet still be under-represented in US legislatures.

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    it is ridiculous to claim that an extreme over representation of Jews in academia and elite circles is somehow equivalent to prevalence of Italians in cooking Italian food. Also, why is that not equivalent to saying "the white culture reveres scholarship" in order to justify the number of white persons in positions of political and academic power? Why does the "privilege" term only apply to whites and not Jews?
    – user23920
    Commented Jul 10, 2019 at 3:03
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    @Augustus, That would be conflating a heterogeneous super-set with a homogeneous subset. White culture is an arbitrary multicultural mash-up, and by the most common definition includes both Jewish and Italian culture. So portions of White culture do revere scholarship, and other portions revere football, etc., and many white US Jews do benefit from "white privilege". The term privilege might be correctly apply to any group or party, provided that they actually were then and there specially privileged. Without special privileges, such a label is meaningless.
    – agc
    Commented Jul 10, 2019 at 4:38
  • Incidentally, when the same group complains of percentages of 'white' people in whichever industry; those complaints are clearly unable to rely on this distinction.
    – user19831
    Commented Jul 10, 2019 at 5:46
  • If the argument is that Jewish culture better prepares people for success in various fields (something that I'm not sure I quite believe is the primary factor at play), mightn't someone argue that in an equitable society those beneficial aspects should be adopted more broadly? Or might someone not argue that equality of outcome, not just equality of opportunity, is the correct goal?
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Jul 10, 2019 at 12:57
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    @Obie2.0, Re "...mightn't someone argue...": Compulsory public schooling is that argument made Law. Among other effects, every culture prepares people for success in various fields -- but the public need for various fields fluctuates, following fashions and trends, much more rapidly than culture. Culture's relative steadiness is a feature, not a bug.
    – agc
    Commented Jul 10, 2019 at 14:15

So, if Jews are so over-represented in positions of power, privilege and elite circles, why is the term "Jewish Privilege" never used to describe that phenomenon?

There's two reasons.

1. Jews Are Victims of Racism

Let's ignore for a moment whether or not "privilege" either generally speaking or in the specific context of white people is an actual social phenomenon that exists, and assume that it does and take it at face value. What is privilege? The same Wikipedia page you cited tells us (emphasis added):

Although the definition of "white privilege" has been somewhat fluid, it is generally agreed to refer to the implicit or systemic advantages that white people have relative to people who are the objects of racism; it is the absence of suspicion and other negative reactions that people who are objects of racism experience.

There is no set of systematic advantages that Jewish people have relative to people who are the objects of racism, because Jews are objects of some of the worst racism humanity has ever exhibited, for thousands of years, and they still are today. I hope that I don't have to explain the history of anti-semitism.

Yes, according to this logic, anyone who is a victim of systematic forms of racism cannot by definition be a beneficiary of privilege. You may or may not find that persuasive, but that is the logic of people who think white privilege is valid.

2. A "Non-Representative" Outcome Doesn't Immediately Indicate There Is Privilege

The fact that there's a higher proportion of people of a particular race or ethnicity in certain circles does not mean that circumstance was produced by some form of privilege. The NBA is about 75% black, but nobody seriously argues that this is "Black Privilege", or that "Black Privilege" is even a thing.

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    "anyone who is a victim of systematic forms of racism cannot by definition be a beneficiary of privilege" Can you explain this further? Isn't this a very one-dimensional view? Surely one can be privileged in some regards but not in others? For example, those blacks in the NBA are privileged because of their length (something they didn't work for but were just given genetically), not because of their race (also genetically, but not something that benefits in this regard). Then, being born rich is a form of non-genetic privilege.
    – JJJ
    Commented Jul 14, 2019 at 12:12
  • @JJJ I can’t really explain it because to be completely truthful I think it is ridiculous nonsense. However, I have heard arguments of this type made, along with the claims that black people cannot be racist by definition (where, there’s a mismatch in definition of “racist” between the people on either side of the argument). Someone who actually knows more about white privilege and believes it is a real thing can probably give a better explanation.
    – Joe
    Commented Jul 14, 2019 at 15:14
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    White privilege is when an organisation is governed almost exclusively by white people who, possibly unintentionally, favor other whites, for example when it comes to hiring or promotions. Also, being from the same background means facing many of the same issues and possibly not being aware of other issues they don't face. An example is when a legislature of white men bans abortions if the issue of unwanted pregnancies in their jurisdiction mostly affects black women.
    – JJJ
    Commented Jul 14, 2019 at 15:42
  • The same obviously goes for other organisations in which a subgroup is disproportionately underrepresented in the decision-making. And a subgroup being the victim of racism (your first point) doesn't mean that this argument can't apply to that subgroup.
    – JJJ
    Commented Jul 14, 2019 at 15:45
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    Using the American University system as a case in point, White and Asian racial identification causes you to lose points when applying, due to "overrepresentation" of these ethnicites in Colleges (even though Asians are a minority in the US). Perhaps "Jewish" is complicated by the fact that it does not just encompass race, but also religion, which is often excluded from identity politics in the US (for one thing, Universities ask about race, but are not allowed ask about religion)
    – Stumbler
    Commented Jul 27, 2019 at 9:52

The term is never used in America because America never had "Jews Only" bathrooms/pools/restaurants etc. America is not a country which bestows special status on people purely because of their Jewishness, nor does it traditionally hate "gentileness". As others have pointed out, in America (and a lot of other countries) Jews have achieved status through hard work and despite the prejudice of others against their ethnicity.

Anti-semitic conspiracy theory continues to be a problem that Jews face, and the idea that "Jews control power, privilege and elite circles" is usually considered to be part of that.

Note that there is one country where being Jewish really does grant someone privileges that are not available to non-Jews, and that is Israel. Starting with the "right of return".

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    Great point – you actually do (albeit rarely) see people use the term "Jewish Privilege" in the context of discussing discrimination against non-Jews in Israel: haaretz.com/opinion/…
    – divibisan
    Commented Jul 10, 2019 at 16:03
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    I would suggest that if one doesn't view privilege as a binary choice, present and non-present, but rather varying in degree and circumstance, and more importantly understands it as existing between any two groups, you could find more examples than just Israel. For instance, in Spain Jews are not, on average, more favored than Christians, but there does exist a citizenship law that would make it much easier for a foreign-born Jew to gain residence than a Christian or Muslim, etc. of equivalent circumstances.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Jul 11, 2019 at 1:17
  • Or, for that matter, Jews clearly don't have an advantage over Christians in most circumstances in the US, but they might be privileged relative to Hindus, say. Perhaps people might be more willing to hire a Jew than a Hindu. And in turn, Hindus might have these sorts of privileges relative to even more disfavored religions, such as Islam or Rastafarianism.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Jul 11, 2019 at 1:21
  • And there's no rule saying that these sorts of unearned privileges have to have a uniform sign between any two groups, either. For instance, people might be less willing to hire Jews than Christians for most jobs, but more willing to hire them for jobs that fit in with Jewish stereotypes, like Trump purportedly saying that he wanted little men with yarmulkes handling his money.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Jul 11, 2019 at 1:25

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