Florida A & M University Law Review



The figure of the Arab Jew has historically occupied a space at the margins of Jewish life, rendered peripheral or even invisible by a lens trained on the experiences of Jews of European descent. Drawing in part from the academic lineage of Kimberl´e Kimberle Crenshaw’s theory of intersectionality, American Jews of Arab and Middle Eastern descent (“Mizrahi Jews”) are increasingly joining their Israeli counterparts and Jews of color in the United States in challenging the naturalization of Jewish whiteness in the popular imagination. In a striking parallel between this groundswell of community theorizing and legal strategy, the Supreme Court in 1987 decided as companion cases Saint Francis College v. Al-Khazraji and Shaare Tefila Congregation v. Cobb, which held that Arab and Jewish plaintiffs can bring race discrimination claims under the Civil Rights Act of 1866 despite both groups’ contemporary status as “Caucasian.” Al-Khazraji and Shaare Tefila, seminal cases in the judicial construction of race in the United States, present a singular opportunity for an intersectional critique of the law’s role in constructing Jewish and Arab identities specifically, as well as the implications of this construction for race discrimination jurisprudence generally. In this Article, I argue that the act of reading these companion cases as a synthesis, rather than discrete cases asking similar questions—an intersection, rather than parallel axes—and centering the figure of the Arab Jew reveals the cases’ potential to unsettle racial essentialism by way of an intersectional critique of juridical whiteness.