What do Hispanic Americans think of Jews? A new survey takes a look
Young Hispanics don’t see Jews as an oppressed minority but, at the same time, don’t hold a negative perception of the Jewish people, according to a report issued by the American Jewish Committee.
The report was not based on widespread polling but rather on in-depth interviews with 125 Hispanics between the ages of 18 and 40, all based in five major American cities. Its purpose was to find way to bind the two communities together, said Dina Siegel Vann, director of AJC’s Arthur and Rochelle Belfer Institute for Latino and Latin American Affairs. Hispanics are the fastest-growing and also youngest minority group in the country, and all the people interviewed for the report were identified as “emerging leaders” within the community.
The changing demographics of the U.S. Hispanic community led the AJC to “try to find a way to engage with them, and to really find common ground and a way of advocating together on issues that are important to both communities,” said Siegel Vann.
Siegel Vann acknowledged that the report does not reflect the Hispanic community as a whole, but rather offers an “X-ray” of a “very specific segment of the Latino population, which is first of all leaders. We’re talking about academic leaders. We’re talking about political leaders. We’re talking about business leaders.”
Interviewees saw Jews as facing less discrimination than Blacks, Asians, Muslims and Hispanics. Asked if they would say Jews are more like “another form of a white person” or more like other minorities, half said Jews were more like white people while 10% didn’t know or didn’t answer.
Only 14% of the respondents said discrimination against Jews has gotten worse over time, with 35% saying the level of discrimination has stayed the same and 37% saying it’s gotten better.
Siegel Vann said the questioning was done in August, prior to Kanye West’s widely publicized monthslong campaign of antisemitic media appearances. Still, that Hispanics don’t recognize antisemitism as a problem in the United States even after tragedies such as the Tree of Life shooting should “give us pause,” she said.
“It’s a problem because when you don’t see the other group as suffering discrimination or being a minority, you cannot have empathy,” said Siegel Vann. “A lot of them said ‘Jews don’t need us.’ We know that we cannot fend by ourselves only.”
By and large, the respondents expressed more sympathy to Palestinians than they did to Israelis. But Siegel Vann expressed optimism that most of those polled differentiated the American Jewish community from Israel.
While many of the people polled don’t see Jews as discriminated against, over 70% identified antisemitism as a form of discrimination. Siegel Vann said the disconnect — of being able to identify what anti-Jewish discrimination is while not seeing it as a problem that’s common — is one that the Jewish community must work harder to rectify.
“Obviously, they are not perceiving this as a problem. We want them to be our partners and our allies. But in order for them to be our allies, they have to understand the problem and they don’t understand the problem. They are imposing on this a paradigm that is not correct,” she said. “The good news is that there’s no baggage and they don’t have a bad perception about us, but they’re indifferent.”
But, she acknowledged, that communication must go two ways. If Jews want Hispanic Americans on their side, they must also “denounce anti-Latino hatred. If we are not attuned to each other, we’re going to be indifferent, we’re going to keep quiet. And that’s a problem.”