This question was asked in the comments to my previous post. The thinking goes like this: there are lots of Jews in New York City, Jews are really smart, so why is Stuyvesant High School 70% Asian and not 70% Jewish? Didn’t Stuyvesant used to be 70% Jewish? Where did all the Jews go?
Back when I went to Stuyvesant in the early 1980s, the school seemed to me to be about 70% white (and the chart in the NY Times seems to back that up), and I’d guess that half of the white kids were Jewish, and wouldn’t be surprised if more than half were Jewish, although there were definitely gentile whites there as well, and also kids who were half Jewish who may not have appeared to me to be Jewish. But it’s hard to say for sure, it’s not like anyone wore Yarmulkes to school, or huge stars of David, or talked about religion much if at all. One of my best friends at Stuyvesant was actually from an Islamic family, but he lied to me and told me he was Episcopalian. I credit him for being embarrassed about his parents’ religion. His parents were very nice people, and once I spent a weekend with them at their cabin in the Poconos, and never did they give me any hint of being Muslims. But I digress from the main point of this blog post.
Middle class whites with children have mostly left New York City and moved to Long Island, Westchester and New Jersey if they are still in the New York City area at all. A lot of middle class whites moved to California and other places out west. My father’s sister moved to Arizona, I have first cousins living in Arizona, California, and Washington (the state, not the city), and far upstate New York many hours driving distance from Manhattan.
Jews who live in New York City today can be divided in to five major categories:
1. Rich Jews. They mostly live in Manhattan but also rich parts of the outer boroughs such as Brooklyn Heights, Park Slope or Riverdale, for example. They send their children to private school, and they wouldn’t think of having their children attend Stuyvesant where they’d be surrounded by poor Asian kids. Thirty years ago, some people in this group did send their children to Stuyvesant if they passed the entrance exam, but not anymore.
2. Young Jews. Their parents used to live in New York City but moved to the suburbs. But they moved back here after college. If they get married and have children, then they leave the city when their children are old enough to attend school if they’re not rich enough to afford private school.
3. Hasidic and ultra-orthodox Jews. They have their enclaves certain neighborhoods in Brooklyn and they send their children to Yeshivas (which is Hebrew for school, but it refers to Jewish religious schools). Thus you don’t find them at Stuyvesant, and this has been the case for decades because, as I wrote above, I don’t recall seeing any kids at Stuyvesant wearing Yarmulkes in the early 1980s.
4. Prole Jews. I know that some readers don’t think these Jews exist, but they do. If you meet prole Jews from the New York City area, you will probably think they are Italian (or Irish if fair skinned). They will speak with a low-class New York accent like the people from the MTV reality show Jersey Shore. This group has a very high intermarriage rate with the prole Italians and Irish because that’s their main social group. They don’t hang out with the rich Jews on the Upper East Side just because their great-great-grandfathers came from the same shtetl. Their children don’t go to Stuyvesant because they aren’t smart enough to pass the entrance exam.
5. Russian Jews. Really a shorthand for all Jews who emigrated to the United States from Soviet Union countries after the collapse of the Soviet Union. As you recall, the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. The largest community of these Jews is in southern Brooklyn centered around Brighton Beach (a neighborhood on Coney Island). There are also communities of these Jews in Queens and Staten Island. If they knew better, they'd settle in other places in the United States, but for some unknown reason the word among Jews in the Soviet Union was that New York City was the place to go. I suspect that a large percentage of the white kids who attend Stuyvesant today come from this group. This is a group that didn’t even exist when I attended Stuyvesant.
And then there’s a category of Jews who don’t live in the five boroughs:
6. Middle class to upper middle class Jews. As previously mentioned, they have all moved out to the suburbs of Long Island, Westchester and New Jersey. Their children can’t attend Stuyvesant because it’s only for kids living in the five boroughs.