#72 / Editorial


This week, we are rerunning Balázs Berkovits’ two-part series on the Jews and whiteness, titled “What Color Are the Jews?” A detailed analysis of the “theory” that intends to describe Jews as “white” – or even as “super-white” – is not unhelpful at a time when a group of French members of parliament is tabling a draft resolution in the National Assembly comparing the State of Israel to South Africa’s apartheid regime. As Balázs Berkovits writes at the end of his essay for K.: “The labeling of Jews as white is essential to understanding why so much critical attention is given to Israel and Zionism today. [… Israel has become a symbol of domination and privilege, far removed from its complicated history and unique position in the Middle East. If anti-Zionism has become probably the most popular critical idiom, it is due to the perception of Jews as white colonizers. Criticism of Israel feeds on criticism of Jews as ‘white,’ and vice versa.”

Balázs Berkovits deconstructs a “simulacrum of social theory” that finds most of its developments in Critical Race Theory and Critical Whiteness Studies, disciplines increasingly popular on American campuses. A return to the roots of these theses was necessary to understand the genealogy of a discourse in which the definition of Jews as “white” is a major political and activist issue. A most absurd example of this: a leaflet circulating in an American university in 2017 which stated that “to end white privilege, we must begin by ending Jewish privilege.”

Our other summer reprint promises to be more whimsical: Danny Trom recounts his visit to the Yung Yiddish, or Mendy Cahan’s secret Yiddish library in Tel Aviv. Cahan’s Yiddish culture is one that exists outside the university and Orthodox circles. He runs a lively establishment, open to all, at once a library, a performance space, and Ali Baba’s cave.

How did Jews come to be defined as “white” by a critical discourse in vogue today? Why do we label Jews as dominant or privileged – and Israel as a colonial entity practicing apartheid motivated by Jewish and white supremacism? Part one of an essay by Balázs Berkovits on the supposed color of Jews…

How did Jews come to be defined as white? The answer can be found in a relatively new form of critical discourse, presently in vogue, in which ‘whiteness’ functions not as an empirical descriptor, but a politico-moral distinction. Read the second part of Balázs Berkovits’ essay on the implications of this shift, “What Color Are the Jews?”

Mendy Cahan is an actor, singer, and collector of books, all in Yiddish… He has stored 90,000 of them in an unlikely location in the Tel Aviv bus station. The piles of accumulated books seem to hold up the walls. And it is in this piece of Eastern Europe stuck in a zone of the Middle East that those who frequent this place gather to revive a Yiddish language that has become a minority in the middle of Hebrew. Visit the Yung Yiddish and meet its creator.

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Thanks to the Paris office of the Heinrich Böll Foundation for their cooperation in the design of the magazine’s website.