Racial and Ethnic Makeup of Member Organizations of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations


There is no such thing as race.

The racial categories that human beings divide themselves into have no basis in biology or any other science. Human beings are all one species, and as the American Anthropological Association asserts, there is more variation in physical appearance within any single racial group than there are between groups. There are black people fairer than most whites, whites who appear black, and so forth.

Rather, race is a political construct created and used for millennia to justify the subjugation of one group of people by another. Racial definitions may vary and even contradict each other as national boundaries are crossed, meaning a person deemed belonging to one race in one country may be counted differently in another.

Time also dictates classification. Definitions of Negro, colored and mix-raced have changed over practically each 10-year period of the U.S. Census, as has the determination of who is accepted as white. Finns were not so counted a century ago and Jewish immigrants from Europe may or may not have been, depending on who was doing the counting. Given these variances due to time and space, it is impossible to determine anyone’s racial identity merely by looking at them, searching their national origin or the ethnic derivation of their name.

Yet we have attempted the impossible. The resultant best guess of this survey is based on the following methodology:

  • We searched all board member names as of June 2020 on the website of every constituent organization that listed its board roster publicly, totalling more than 2,000 names.
  • For those that did not list a full roster, we accessed the board member list included on that organization’s sworn 990 Nonprofit tax-exempt filing with the Internal Revenue Service for the most recent year available. In the case of a conflict, we deferred to the IRS filing except in cases where web additions would reflect recent board appointments.
  • We searched every board member photograph made publicly available by each group on its website, for those most identifiable as Black/African American, Asian, Hispanic/Latinx, and, though not necessarily recognized as persons of color in the United States, Mizrahi/Sephardic or other Middle Eastern/North African ancestry, such as Iranian, Syrian or Morroccan.
  • Where organizations post only some or no photographs at all, we searched third party sources including LinkedIn, Facebook, personal and private company sites and those of synagogues and local chapters of the national groups. These determinations were only made when the person in the third party photo could be matched with the listed board member with 100 percent certainty.
  • We searched every listed board member name of all organizations to identify any belonging to an identifiable racial, ethinc, language or tribal group, including known or presumed maiden names of married women.
  • In cases of further ambiguity, we searched obituaries and other family genealogical records to determine the country of origin of board members’ parents or other ancestors. We likewise searched for the birthplace of some individuals, such as, in an example representative of the time/space dubiety of race described above, a board member whose parents were born in Eastern Europe before the Holocaust. There, and at that time, the family may have been considered white. After the rise of Nazism, they no longer would have been. Immigrating to Latin America (where the board member was born, given a Hispanic first name, and grew up speaking Spanish) they may have been considered white again. Finally, with the board member coming to the U.S. having been immersed in Latinx culture, his identity is viewed as Hispanic.

Finally, if our number count of board members does not match up with those stated by the organizations themselves, discrepancies may be due to differences between the number of names listed on the web site versus the 990 forms, board categories such as nonvoting, emeriti, past officers and others not clearly identified as full voting board members, and simple mistabulation of columns literally counted on our fingers from the computer screen. Such errors may be prevalent both ways, as we have found instances where organizations have listed one or more names multiple times. Corrections are welcome; we beg forgiveness and grant the same.