On Monday, leaders at Congregation Beth Israel, a synagogue located in Northwest Portland, reported that a fire had been lit outside the building and the walls had been defaced with antisemitic graffiti and violent threats. The incident comes amidst a rising tide of antisemitic incidents and just days after Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“This attack is deeply disturbing and absolutely unacceptable,” said Megan Black, Director of Western States Center’s Common Good program, which raises awareness about the threat of antisemitism to American democracy. “We’ve seen again and again that hateful language and vandalism can lead to violent, even deadly attacks. As a country we have to act in solidarity with Jewish communities under attack–and that means acknowledging the toxic reality of antisemitism as the historic, animating force behind many of the most dangerous conspiracy theories and bigotries infecting our public discourse.”

Western States Center’s Common Good program promotes understanding and collective action against the threat of antisemitism by training and resourcing community and civic leaders to respond to antisemitic threats and build strong pro-democracy coalitions across lines of difference and division.  

“The city of Portland cannot be allowed to miss this opportunity to stand with our Jewish neighbors and say that we reject antisemitism in all its forms,” said Mariotta Gary Smith, chairwoman of the Western States Center. “All of us who love this city and call it home should make it clear that we won’t be silent in the face of attacks like these. I hope our community leaders–political, civic, business and religious–will speak with one voice to declare that Portland won’t let Congregation Beth Israel face hate alone. We’re behind them every step of the way.”

Leslie Warren, another Portland-based Western States Center board leader and investment advisor, added, “We know that a threat to the Jewish community is a threat to all of us. The kind of hatred and bigotry that leads to an act of antisemitic violence doesn’t stop there. Any person who wants to live in an inclusive democracy in which every person can live free from bigotry, violence, and fear should find their voice and stand with Congregation Beth Israel.”


Based in the Pacific Northwest and Mountain States, Western States Center works nationwide to strengthen inclusive democracy through building movements, developing leaders, shifting culture, and defending democracy.

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