Wait… Jews Are Not White?


I heard a San Francisco radio talk show host say that he wasn’t white because he was Jewish. Wait… what? The idea that Jews are not white is new to me. Most of the Jews that I know, are fair skinned or have olive complexions. Of course, there are many black Jews, I saw them on the streets of Tel Aviv. The history of the return of black Jews to Israel from Africa, is a fascinating story. And Sammy Davis Junior was black. He became a Jew. Need we remember that Jewish is also a religion? Confusing, I know.

What “white” and “black” are used for is census reports and birth certificates and employment applications, although for decades we’ve been able to choose “decline to state.” Which I sometimes do and sometimes don’t. However someone wishes to identify, I’m alright with it. To be honest with you, since my DNA tests show that I have a small amount of Native American ancestry and a small amount of sub-Saharan, I smile when I think that I could check the box that says “black” or “Native American.” I’d love to do that. I won’t though. It might create a nightmare scenario for me at an airport someday. But just so you know, I’m really proud that I found a little color in my family tree. I’ve rested easier ever since because I just knew it was there. I’m not so crazy after all. Follow your intuition wherever it might lead. A very important point to remember when studying your family genealogy.

Suellen Ocean is the author of Secret GenealogyA How-to for Tracing Ancient Jewish Ancestry. Available here:


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