Prejudice and Discrimination

‘Prejudice’ means to pre-judge – so you have decided in advance what you think of someone or a group of people based simply on knowing a fact about them (e.g. they are elderly).

Discrimination is putting your prejudice into action.

Prejudice and discrimination usually come from ignorance, fear, upbringing and stereotyping. In the UK, discrimination because of race or gender is illegal. All religions teach against prejudice and discrimination.

Types of prejudice

  • Racism – judging someone because of their nationality or skin colour.
  • Sexism – judging someone because of their gender. This usually applies to the treatment of women.
  • Disability – disabled people sometimes feel that people judge them or discriminate against them.
  • Other types could include age, sexuality, social class and so on.

General Jewish Beliefs

All humans are equal – they have the same value as each other – whoever they are. They therefore have equal human rights.

All people should therefore be treated with justice. Strangers (or ‘aliens’) should be treated with compassion.

Specific Teachings

Everyone is created in the image of God (Gen 1:27) and is therefore equal to Him.

‘Love your neighbour as you love yourself.’ (Leviticus 19:18).


In Mishnah Sanhedrin 37a, we are told that Adam was made from different colours of dust collected from all over the world – and so the first man contained all nations and all races.

‘You are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt.’ (Deuteronomy 10:19)

There has been a lot of racism against Jews in their history – anti-semitism. The most famous example is the Holocaust during World War II.

Theodore Herzl (1850-1904) worked in a non-violent way to fight racism. He tried to educate people and called for a Jewish state.


Men and women are equal. The mother has to bring up the children in the faith and this is so important that Orthodox Jewish women are exempt from some religious practices.

In Orthodox Synagogues, women cannot be Rabbis or sit with men, but they can have careers (as long as they look after the household as well).

Progressive Jews think men and women can have the same roles.

What can Jews do?

  • Support the work of J-CORE (Jewish Council of Racial Equality) which educates about and gives help to refugees.
  • Ensure that they and their children have no prejudices in their own lives.
  • Challenge stereotypes that lead to prejudice.
  • Be prepared to stick up for others when they come across discrimination
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