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Must Read: Jews, Ethnic Studies, Identity & Being Indigenous

Unless you have been dealing with mass social unrest, climate change, economic turmoil and a killer plague, you may easily have missed what's been going on in California recently. So, yeah, you probably missed this. In 2016 a California state law ordered the Board of Education to create a curriculum to "highlight the contributions of minorities in the development of California and the United States." What they created went way beyond anyone's wildest imagination and worst nightmares.

In June of 2019 the first draft of the California Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum for grades K-12 was released. Beginning on April 22 of this year, school boards around California began to pass resolutions to implement the 500-page plan - which as is par for the course, many legislators probably never read. The problem is that this manifesto apparently literally whitewashed the history, culture, origins and identity of the Jewish people (as well as other marginalized groups) and promoted numerous questionable agendas and ideologies. On top of that, anti-Israel activists had worked to include numerous items which completely trashed Israel, which of course is irrelevant to the subject matter. It was so egregious that both the governor and board of education had to apologize profusely and had to work to correct it.

While the revised draft is much better (appropriately removing the Israeli-Arab/Palestinian conflict altogether), it still, however, leaves much to be desired when it comes to being an inclusive curriculum, not to mention understanding who and what Jews are.

The curriculum - which is undergoing a public review period as I write this - still apparently treats Jews as if they are not worthy of inclusion in ethnic studies, i.e. that they are white (albeit non-WASP). It completely ignores the presence of Jews of Color and Jews from the Middle East and Africa (who make up over 50% of Israel's Jewish population and a notably large percentage of Jews in California). The only lesson specifically relating to Jews apparently is a lesson on Jewish-Americans and Irish-Americans in which "students will write a paper detailing certain events in American history that have led to Jewish and Irish Americans gaining racial privilege." Here is the problem with that: Jews are not white and have not ever been white - not even Ashkenazi Jews from Europe (even if many Western Jews can pass for white on the street). Virtually all Jews descend from the Middle East and their experience in America is almost nothing like the Irish one.

For an absolutely fantastic take on the issue of Jewish identity, race, ethnicity, whiteness and more, please, please, take the time to read this:

As a tour guide of Israel, I often get asked what are Jews - a race, religion, culture, ethnicity, civilization or something else? That article for the most part sums it up.

Oh, and while we are at it... While no Jews are "white," I'd be really hard pressed to call these Jews white...

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