"Jews are a minority too!" by Alexis King
Updated: Feb 3
When people start their academic career at Sonoma State University, there are a plethora of classes from which to choose from. The first two years are dedicated to the completion of the General Education (GE) Pattern Curriculum. One of these requirements is to complete a course in ethnic studies. According to Sonoma State the “Ethnic Studies requirement involves studying one or American ethnic minorities.” Based off this statement, Ethnic Studies courses examine the race, ethnicity and culture of particular minorities.
What really is an ethnic minority? An ethnic minority is a distinct group that coexists
with, but is subordinate to a more dominant group consisting of different national or cultural
traditions. Minority status does not need to correlate with population. Minority groups may have a population larger than the size of the dominant group. Learning about minorities does not only open eyes to prominent issues from the past and present, it also allows students to do academically better, learn to value peers, and become empowered. Sonoma State has a lot to offer including classes about specific races, genders, social classes, economic classes and religious minorities. While this may be true, there seems to be a minority missing from the list of ethnic studies courses to choose from: Jewish Studies.
The Jewish community experienced historic levels of antisemitism in 2018. Anti-
Defamation League (ADL) recorded a total of 1,879 attacks against Jews and Jewish institutions across the country in 2018. White supremacist propaganda activity surged nationwide after the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue which is a place of worship in Pittsburgh where 11 lives were claimed. The number of incidents in 2018 was 48 percent higher than the total for 2016 and 99 percent higher than in 2015. These incidents are occurring in a variety of places, including businesses, homes, parks, cemeteries and Jewish schooling institutions. This is a clear message that society needs to be informed and attentive to counter the violence antisemitism brings. Schools are ultimately aiding the issue by avoiding antisemitism.
There are many Jewish Studies programs present in 8 California State Universities (CSU). All of these programs are isolated from ethnic studies departments. Faculty and students
continue to support the addition of the program into the Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum;
however resistance persists in these schools. Around the country, Jewish Studies has become
independent, especially east of the Mississippi. This raises concerns for the CSU system that
involves “continuing a fifty-year pattern of isolating Jewish Studies from other Ethnic Studies
programs”. This ignores rising antisemitism which “increases the dangers for California’s
students and faculty”, and omits any discussion of it. Jewish Studies explores the religious
thought with the association of economics and social relationships, but religion is only a small
portion of Judaism. The CSU system continues to use the limitations of the ethnic studies
program from the late 1960s; this only includes “Africana Studies, Chicano/a-Latinx Studies,
Asian and Asian American Studies, and American Indian Studies."
The CSU system needs to update the ethnic studies model to include Jewish Studies. Changes are essential to move forward in the curriculum. The current model that excludes
Jewish Studies is a program of the past. It is 2019 and 50 years have gone by with no change and no incorporation. It is becoming more dangerous to be part of this ethnic minority in today’s world of violence. As schools ignore this issue, they are avoiding their Jewish students. Sonoma State is avoiding there Jewish students. I urge Sonoma State to take action and be the leader in this movement. The CSU system needs to change. Sonoma State needs to change.