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Meet the Feminist Rabbi Confronting Portland’s “Alt-Right” in the Streets

Rabbi Ariel Stone sounds the shofar at a gathering of the Interfaith Clergy Resistance last August.

Rabbi Ariel Stone sounds the shofar at a gathering of the Portland Interfaith Clergy Resistance last August.

Despite its reputation as an environmentally conscious, progressive Mecca, in actual fact, the Pacific Northwest has a sordid racial history.

For example, from 1857 to 1927, there was a prohibition on African Americans entering Oregon, and while the policy was reportedly inconsistently enforced, the fact that it was included in the state Bill of Rights sent a clear message to would-be settlers of color. Not surprisingly, Portland remains the whitest big city in the U.S. of A.

For some Oregonians, this is exactly as it should be, and they are mobilizing supporters of a racist, sexist, homophobic and anti-Semitic worldview. The goal? To build all-white ethno-settlements in Idaho, Oregon, Washington state, and western Montana.

Their groups include True Cascadia, which bills itself as “white, proud, and unapologetic.” Supporters have postered numerous areas of the “beaver state,” and declared their intention of “securing the existence of our people and a future for white children.”

And they’re not all talk. In May 2017, 35-year-old white supremacist Jeremy Christian fatally stabbed two men who were defending a pair of girls against racist and anti-Muslim taunts aboard a Portland MAX train.

This is, of course, horrifying. But as you’d expect, many people on Oregon and throughout the Pacific Northwest oppose the alt-right and numerous anti-racist groups which have formed, among them, The Cascadian Coalition Against Hate, Cascadian Anti-White Supremacy, and the Portland Interfaith Clergy Resistance.

Rabbi Ariel Stone of Portland’s Congregation Shir Tikvah is the convener of the Clergy Resistance. She recently spoke to Eleanor J. Bader about the political climate in Oregon, the work of the Clergy Resistance, and the challenges of organizing in Trumpian times.