In 1920, the Hungarian parliament introduced quotas to restrict the number of Jews in universities—later imitated by Poland, Latvia, Germany, and other countries—based on the rationale that the proportion of Jews in student bodies should reflect the ethnoreligious makeup of the country as a whole. Last year, Ibram X. Kendi published his highly influential book How to Be an Antiracist, which argues that if the distribution of wealth, prestige, particular jobs, and so forth among racial groups doesn’t reflect the distribution of racial groups in the country as a whole, that is evidence of racism. Or as Kendi puts it, “The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination.” Daniel Friedman contends that such a worldview of necessity not only ignores anti-Semitism, but is inclined to get dangerously close to it:
Jews came to America, often as refugees fleeing persecution, and were able to flourish here precisely because opportunities weren’t closed off to them on the basis of identity. The story of minority immigrant success is inconsistent with the progressive narrative of the United States as a country founded upon and organized around racism, [as Kendi and likeminded writers claim]. So progressives have become hostile to successful minorities, and have begun speaking about them in ways that echo the anti-Semitic conspiracy theories of the far right.
The far right believes that the mechanisms of power have been seized by a sinister Jewish cabal, while the far left believes that institutions are jealously guarded by white heterosexual males. . . . Jews only comprise about 2 percent of the U.S. population. However, of the nine Supreme Court Justices, three were Jewish prior to the recent death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. When Barack Obama nominated Elena Kagan to the court in 2010, the paleoconservative writer and former politician Pat Buchanan complained that if Kagan were confirmed, Jews would hold “33 percent of the Supreme Court seats. Is this the Democrats’ idea of diversity?”
[I]t is true that there are a lot of very successful Jews. What is false is the insidious implication that Jewish success is some kind of problem or grounds for suspicion. The racist right has long been obsessed with this topic, and copious postings can be found on far-right websites and forums discussing the perceived problem of disproportionate Jewish success and power.