The Jewish Glass Ceiling

Setting aside Scandinavia, which is ahead of us on everything, and of course Israel, which turns the paradigm upside down, the US is probably the least anti-Semitic country in the world. Washington’s magnificent letter to the Newport congregation ( “it is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights”) precedes Jewish emancipation in France by one year and in Great Britain by more than half a century (though as with so many of the founders’ stirring phrases about equal rights, Washington’s words were aspirational: Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and North Carolina restricted Jewish rights until long after the Constitution was ratified and New Hampshire held out until 1876). For every Tom Watson, Henry Ford, and Charles Lindbergh, there’s been a Louis Brandeis, a Bernard Baruch, or a Felix Frankfurter; for all the Hymietown and Jew York City slurs we’ve had to endure from the right and left, Leo Frank and Yankel Rosenbaum are exceptions that prove a rule. Though not immune to anti-Semitism, Jew-hatred has never been this country’s official policy. Women as a political class (Protestant women as much as Catholic, Jewish, and Islamic women) have had much more to overcome institutionally. And yet for all that, neither party has run a Jew for president. Why is that? Institutional racism flourishes, and yet we managed to elect an African American. Cultural misogyny runs just as deep and we are on the cusp of electing a woman. I suspect a real answer would be both counter-intuitive and incredibly enlightening about a whole host of things.


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