Have Jews been directly affected by race-conscious hiring and admissions policies?
The answer is yes — but whether the impact has been positive or negative depends on whom you ask.
In the early 1970s, Jewish social scientist Seymour Martin Lipset predicted that Jewish women would be among affirmative action’s chief beneficiaries.
He seems to have been right.
Though not quantified through any scientific study, it has become almost, axiomatic that affirmative action has been good for women.
In fact, Jewish women may have benefited more than other women because the average Jewish woman has attained a higher educational level than the average white woman, which has positioned Jewish women well for competitive positions.
“Women’s understanding is that it helps us as women,” said writer and political activist Letty Cottin Pogrebin. “We don’t think in terms of quotas, but in terms of goals.”
According to Norman Podhoretz, editor-in-chief of Commentary and an outspoken action has made up for whatever losses were suffered by Jewish men.”
“But that’s not a positive outcome,” Podhoretz said. “It’s a lie to say that it’s been a boon to Jewish women. I don’t think affirmative action has had any positive effects. It’s poisoned relations between the races and between the sexes.”
The first legal challenges to affirmative action that galvanized the Jewish community, in the DeFunis and bakke cases of the mid-1979s, related to admission to graduate schools.
Although Jewish opposition was most widespread in those cases, observers say that Jews have not suffered as a group from affirmative action policies being applied in schools.
“Undoubtedly, Jews haven’t made it to Harvard or Yale or Columbia law and medical schools because some seats are reserved for blacks, though the schools would deny it,” said Marc Stern, co-director of the American Jewish Congress’ Commission on Law and Social Action.
“God knows that there are enough Jewish doctors and lawyers around that it looks foolish to complain about it.”
“On scholarships there are dollars that don’t go to Jews but among whites, Appalachian males probably have a bigger complaint about that,” said Stern.
The only area in which Jews may have lost out as a result of affirmative action is in civil service.
“Jews almost constituted a bit of an establishment years ago in public school systems and welfare departments,” said Murray Friedman, author of the recently published book,”What Went Wrong? The Creation and Collapse of the Black-Jewish Alliance.”
“Jews dominated the government social welfare field and were replaced, not with ease. It’s been harsh at times,” he said.
“[Public] schools have become black, so the concept of having black principals in big cities where Jews had constituted a kind of establishment” has become accepted, said Friedman.
“Set-asides have become routine and accepted as part of a civil rights strategy. It’s become accepted without much challenge anymore,” he said.
According to Stern, “Jews in the lower ranks of civil service have paid a real price for affirmative action. Elsewhere there are no fields [that] Jews have been knocked out of.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.