Jewish Americans

Jewish Americans refers to a diverse ethnoreligious group of people in the United States, who practice Judaism and/or are associated with Judaism by cultural practices, family history, or ethnicity. Jewish identity is not limited to religious affiliation. Some people identify as Jewish on the basis of ethnicity, culture, and/or ancestry. It is therefore important to recognize the existence of both Jews by religion and Jews of no religion. In general, “Jewish Americans,” “Jews,” and “Jewish people” can be used interchangeably, though there is a current effort to reclaim and expand use of the proper noun—Jew(s)—to refer to Jewish people. Because racial, religious, and ethnic identities are deeply personal and are constantly evolving, terminology is a matter of individual preference and should be treated as such.

From leading disease prevention and control efforts, pioneering the technology that led to WiFi, GPS, and Bluetooth communication systems, and serving on the Supreme Court of the United States, Jewish Americans have been and continue to be an integral part of our society. Despite these contributions, Jewish Americans have routinely been mistreated and excluded. Throughout history, Jewish people all over the world have been persecuted for their religious and cultural practices, and have been subjected to torture, segregation, and genocide. In the United States, Jewish Americans sometimes struggle to thrive as they are harassed and victimized in hate crimes that target where they shop, learn, and worship. This persecution and ongoing psychosocial stress has left many Jewish Americans in poor healthAdditionally, Jewish Americans who are economically poor, disabled, LGBTQ+, and/or of color are even more likely to struggle to thrive due to the compounding marginalizations they experience. 

Though antisemitism is not a new phenomenon, it is an increasingly dangerous one. The United States had a record 2,717 antisemitic incidents in 2021, which represents a 34% increase from the previous year and an all-time high since these incidents began being tracked in 1979.

Partnering with Jewish Americans to achieve health equity and justice requires deeply uprooting racist and antisemitic systems that perpetuate their exploitation and abuse. Institutionalizing and operationalizing equity and justice throughout all leadership levels of all sectors will require organizations, allies, and systems to deeply center and follow the leadership of people with lived experience. Community-led processes, self-representation, and centering Jewish voices are a few effective tactics communities can leverage to advance equity and well-being for Jewish Americans.