Anti-jewish Bias in Employment Still “widespread,” Jewish Congress Says
Menu JTA Search

Anti-jewish Bias in Employment Still “widespread,” Jewish Congress Says

Download PDF for this date

Employment discrimination against American Jews today continues to be “widespread,” and there exists “sufficient evidence of discrimination against Jews to prevent undue optimism concerning prompt elimination of that evil, “according to a new study issued today by the American Jewish Congress. The study is a summary and analysis of the published evidence in the field, prepared for the World Jewish Congress for submission to the International Labor Office.

On the basis of available data, “American Jews still face handicaps in obtaining employment, handicaps that are not faced by non-Jews,” the AJC report discloses. “Jews are largely excluded from many of the basic industries, such as commercial banking, automobile manufacturing, shipping and transportation, agriculture and mining. They tend, as a result, to be concentrated in speculative industries, retail trade and the professions.”

The report points out that most Americans are gainfully employed. “The fact of full employment and relative prosperity at this time operates to obscure the effects of anti-Semitic discrimination,” the report declares. “A tightening in the labor market might well produce a more discouraging picture.”

The new report relies upon published demographic studies undertaken by individual communities, surveys of specific occupations and the judgment of informed observers. “Such studies, while providing some insight into the economic structure of American Jewry,” the AJC notes, “do not cover all Jewish communities. Nevertheless, it is interesting that whatever information is available reveals that discrimination against Jews continues to be widespread. There continue to be large areas of the American industrial scene in which Jews have difficulty in gaining a place.”

To avoid the rebuffs they experience in the general labor market, the report declares, Jews have sought employment in Jewish firms or in independent operations. Jewish workers have, therefore, been prevented from becoming fully integrated in the American economy. “In the professions,” the report notes, “Jews have tended to concentrate in fields like medicine, dentistry, pharmacy and law–fields in which they can operate independently without being subjected to discrimination by an employer, while avoiding such fields as chemistry.

“Recently, increasing numbers of Jews have been employed in all phases of engineering work, presumably because of the acute shortage of qualified technical personnel that has existed since the beginning of World War II. The outlook in the banking field in some areas of the country, notably Los Angeles, is also encouraging,” the report says.


In a study of Jewish employment in five Philadelphia firms (Philadelphia Electric Company, Philadelphia Gas Works, Bell Telephone Company, Philadelphia Transportation Company and the Insurance Company of North America), no Jews were found to be employed in the insurance firm; the percentage of Jewish employment in the remaining four firms ranged from one-half of one percent to 3.5 percent.

A survey made of the law school graduates of Chicago, Columbia, Harvard and Yale Universities revealed that the rate of job acceptance was substantially lower for Jewish than for non-Jewish graduates. Another study of college business administration and accounting graduates showed that Jewish graduates were employed generally in Jewish-owned firms; in comparison with non-Jews, Jewish graduates earned less, had a harder time getting employment and more of them had to take jobs unrelated to their college training.

A 1955 survey of 20, 000 job orders placed with commercial employment agencies in Chicago during 1953 and 1954 showed that over 20 percent of the orders were specifically closed to Jews.

A survey conducted among government agencies that administer anti-discrimination laws in such states as Connecticut, Kansas, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Oregon disclosed that up until 1954, the number of cases complaining against discrimination on grounds of religion, primarily against Jews and Catholics, accounted for eleven percent of the total caseload. Such complaints accounted for eight percent of the war-time Fair Employment Practices Committee’s caseload.

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund