A census question poses a dilemma for American Jews — are you white, and if so, what are your ‘origins’?

The 2020 census contains a question that is raising questions for Jews. (Photo Illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

It’s the ninth question on the census, and for many Jewish respondents, it’s a surprising — and sometimes unwelcome — invitation to consider who exactly they are.

For the first time, the U.S. Census question on race is asking white and African-American respondents to dig deeper and fill in more detailed origins.

“Mark one or more boxes AND print origins,” the printed form says. For white, it adds, “Print, for example, German, Irish, English, Italian, Lebanese, Egyptian, etc.”

The request for “origins” has existed for decades for Native American, Hispanic and Asian/Pacific Islander respondents. But whites and blacks were previously asked to simply check a box.

The question has launched countless Jewish conversations: “What did you list?” “What should I?”

The answers reveal a community grappling with what it means to announce one’s Jewishness in the 21st century, and to consider the myriad paths that have brought American Jews to the present day.

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