In this episode, DMP collaborator Juan Diaz Mercado interviews Jewish Studies professor-scholar Dr. Ilana McQuinn and Davidson senior Dahlia Kurtkovich about the unique intersections of marginalization and being Jewish in the U.S. American south, and Jewish hybrid identity in both Europe and the U.S. Our guests urge us to think beyond persecution tropes towards a critical understanding of Jewish hybrid identity, especially in relation to multiculturalism and the far political right; discourse often lacks a critical apparatus to talk about Jews, race and power due to the dissonance many hold about Jews as white people and therefore not occupying a positionality of legitimate oppression. The Davidson campus community experienced a jarring reality when two of our own students were doxed online and outed as Neo-Nazis. Our guests discuss the Jewish representation as Holocaust-centered only, which leaves large gaps in how Jewish Studies relates to many subfields and broad topic areas such as antiracist discourses, human rights, post-Holocaust conversations, the law, and the struggles for equal rights. Dr. McQuinn and Dahlia highlight Jewish-specific microaggressions that permeate our societal structures including assumptions based on whiteness, wealth, religious holidays, multiculturalism, and in/visibility.
Dr. Ilana McQuinn is the Program Coordinator of the Stuart and Suzanne Grant Center for the American Jewish Experience at Tulane University. The Center is devoted to studying the diversity and variety of the American Jewish Experience. Prior to joining Tulane, she taught Modern Jewish and European History at Davidson College as a Visiting Assistant Professor. Hired in the aftermath of the “TwitterNazi” incident at Davidson College, Dr. McQuinn’s time at Davidson was shaped by the simultaneous enthusiasm for courses on the Jewish experience and numerous and concrete logistical roadblocks to creating a permanent place for Jewish studies at Davidson.
Dr. McQuinn notes that many Jewish sources don’t really use the language of microaggressions and much of this discussion plays out in short-form journalism and op-eds. She has generously taken the time to collect a series of relatively recent materials that are related to the following important issues: the diversity of American Jewish experiences, antisemitism, and the ways that Jews do and don’t fit into American racial, social, and cultural categories.
- Deborah Lipstadt, Antisemitism, Here and Now
- David Nirenberg, Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition
- Laura Limonic, Kugel and Frijoles: Latino Jews in the United States
- Eric L. Goldstein, The Price of Whiteness: Jews, Race, and American Identity
- MaNishtana, Ariel Samson, Freelance Rabbi
- Code Switch, “Members of Whose Tribe?”
- Adventures in Jewish Studies: The Association for Jewish studies Podcast
- Jewish on Campus
- Judith Rosenbaum, “American Jews, Race, Identity, and the Civil Rights Movement,” Jewish Women’s Archive
Organizations with further resources:
Dahlia Krutkovich is a senior at Davidson College, majoring in Global Literary Theory. The daughter of Russian and Indian parents, she is broadly interested in how Western multiculturalisms have molded diasporic identities. Currently, she is preparing a thesis on articulations of Ashkenazi identity in France after 1975. In reaction to a far-right manifestation on Davidson’s campus, she began organizing with other students to try to diversify Davidson’s curricular offerings.
See the resources below that Dahlia recommends for further education on this and other related topics:
- Jewish Currents is a leading magazine on the Jewish left. This article talks about the recent history of how Jewish organizers have understood antisemitism to operate in contemporary American society. It would provide some context for the guide below.
- Jews for Racial and Economic Justice is one of the most prominent (and oldest) anti-racist Jewish organizations in the country. Two of their organizers (who are also Davidson alums) came to Davidson two years ago to give a series of trainings based on this guide.
- Treyf is a podcast based out of Montreal that creates episodes on a wide range of topics related to Jewish diaspora and abolitionist politics, for anyone interested in learning about coalition and solidarity from a Jewish perspective.
- The archive that of Jewish identity at Davidson that students built in the two years after the neo-Nazi event in 2018.