Incidents of antisemitic hate were up sharply in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest as a whole in 2022, according to new data from the ADL Pacific Northwest, a regional chapter of a national anti-hate group.
“We often say, based on history, that antisemitism is the canary in the coal mine,” said Miri Cypers, the regional director of ADL Pacific Northwest. “White supremacy as a system is connected through antisemitism.”
As a rule, white supremacist ideologies include conspiracy theory-type thinking about Jewish people. Other forms of hate, against Black people, immigrants and the LGBTQ+ community, for example, are fostered in those same ideologies. Understanding the roots of those racist belief systems is key to combating them, Cypers said.
“These different forms of prejudice are really interconnected when it comes to the health of our democracy and how we treat minorities,” Cypers said.
The ADL recorded 40 incidents of antisemitic hate in Oregon in its 2022 audit, the most ever, and 65 incidents in Washington, also a record. Reported incidents were up 36% nationally, according to the ADL.
Since 1979, the ADL has conducted an annual audit of acts of harassment and intimidation against Jewish people. Staff compile and review information provided by victims, law enforcement and community leaders. The actions reported in the Pacific Northwest this year included distributing antisemitic flyers, a bomb threat at a Jewish school in Seattle and a racist attack on a Portland library security guard who was Jewish.
There have already been at least three incidents of antisemitic flyering in Oregon in 2023 — all in Lane County. But there has also been pretty immediate push-back.
Within a week of all three incidents, volunteers conducted counter-flyering and door-knocking campaigns. Those efforts were led by the Community Alliance of Lane County, a local chapter of Showing Up For Racial Justice and two Eugene-based neighborhood associations. The goal was to spread more inclusive messages of peace and to let people in the community know how to report future such incidents, said Stephen Piggott, who studies right-wing extremism as a program analyst with the Western States Center, a civil rights group.
“Having something so timely is also super powerful,” Piggott said. “This is exactly what these bigoted groups despise.”
People who spread messages of hate are hoping for media attention that will amplify their rhetoric, he said. Ultimately, they seek to instill fear in people who belong to whatever group is their current target.
But in Lane County this year, “their attempt to sew fear and intimidation has been met by a much stronger message, which is a message of community unity,” Piggott said.
The organizers involved in the counter-flyering campaigns who spoke to OPB were wary of giving their full names, for fear of doxxing by the extremists they are working against. Two different organizers confirmed that about 20 people participated in the counter-flyering for the first two incidents in late January and early February. The response to the third incident, which happened in the Santa Clara neighborhood of Eugene, pulled a larger response of close to 50 volunteers handing out flyers with the words “LOVE YOUR NEIGHBORS - NO PLACE FOR HATE” in all caps.
One volunteer with Showing Up for Racial Justice, a group that focuses on organizing white people to stand up for civil rights, said she initially worried that the counter-flyering was merely reactive. But she now sees the coming together of neighbors against hate to be far more powerful than the original acts of intimidation.
“It’s not just that they’re keeping us busy responding to hateful acts. We’re actually becoming stronger and building more connections to our community in response to those hateful acts,” said Laura, who asked to be identified only by her first name out of fear for her safety “as a Jewish person, up against neo-Nazis.”
And she says the multi-racial, multi-religious coalitions being built will keep showing up, no matter who is being targeted. “We are more than that hate and that pain,” she said. “There is so much love in the community.”
One way to report hate incidents is to call Oregon’s Bias Response Hotline at 1-844-924-BIAS or to file an incident report online at StandAgainstHate.Oregon.gov. The hotline, which is run by the Oregon Department of Justice, became operational in January 2020 and has since been bolstered with additional funding and staffing. The majority of calls in 2021, the latest year with complete data, were to report incidents against Black and Asian people.
Cypers, of the ADL, said the hotline creates a safe way for people to report incidents of hate to which they might otherwise not know how to respond.
“As much as these are grim statistics,” she said, “we’re also inspired by how many people are speaking up and the kind of leadership that Oregon and the attorney general and other leaders are showing, and we really hope that it’s a model for the nation.”
Correction: The name of one of the organizations involved in counter-flyering has been updated to reflect its correct name, which is Showing Up for Racial Justice.