Sara Shor "sounds the alarm" about the Line 3 oil pipeline at a March 11 protest in Oakland. (Photo/Gabriel Greschler)
Sara Shor "sounds the alarm" about the Line 3 oil pipeline at a March 11 protest in Oakland. (Photo/Gabriel Greschler)

Jews join Oakland protest as Line 3 oil pipeline draws activists’ ire

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Maracas shaking. Cooking pots clanging. A small, pink accordion being played.

These were the “alarms” sounded by environmental activists, from toddlers to grandmothers, at Oakland’s Lake Merritt Amphitheater on Thursday morning. About 50 people, representing the East Bay Jewish community and other local groups, called for President Joe Biden to stop the rerouting of the Line 3 oil pipeline.

The 1,000-mile pipeline, built in the late 1960s, carries crude oil from Alberta, Canada, to Superior, Wisconsin. The Canadian company that operates the pipeline plans to replace portions and extend it by 337 miles in northern Minnesota, doubling the capacity of oil it can carry to 790,000 barrels per day.

Activists say the construction will lead to environmental ruin, as well as violate the treaty rights of the Anishinaabe, a Native American and Canadian tribe that lives in the Great Lakes region where the pipeline would be rerouted.

“There’s agriculture happening, there’s wild rice growing in many of those areas that is completely threatened as a crop if there is an oil spill,” said Rabbi Dev Noily of Kehilla Community Synagogue in Oakland. “This is a moment of opportunity.”

The rally was organized by Sara Shor, an Oakland Jewish activist who works for GreenFaith, which brings faith groups together to address climate change. It was one of 400 such events organized by GreenFaith around the world to raise awareness about the pipeline.

Kehilla member Nicole Bloom looks on during a protest of the Line 3 oil pipeline in Oakland, March 11, 2021. (Photo/Gabriel Greschler)
Kehilla member Nicole Bloom looks on during a protest in Oakland of the Line 3 oil pipeline, March 11, 2021. (Photo/Gabriel Greschler)

“This really represents the intersection between climate change, climate justice and Indigenous sovereignty,” said 16-year-old Alyla Meir, a member of the Oakland group Jewish Youth for Community Action (JYCA). “We want to keep the world a beautiful place. Our people have been thrown out of their own land, just like the Indigenous people in this country. That’s why we want to show up for them.”

In addition to the Jewish groups present at Lake Merritt, Rev. Ambrose Carroll from Green the Black Church Campaign and Mushim Ikeda from the East Bay Meditation Center also addressed the crowd. Children from Abundant Beginnings, a Berkeley community education project, held signs that said “Stop Line 3” and chanted “Up, up with Mother Earth!”

“We know faith leaders can influence leaders in government,” said Shor. Biden “talks a big game” when it comes to addressing climate change, she said. “But he actually has some decisions that he could make right now.”

One of Biden’s first moves as president in late January was revoking the federal permits for the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have carried oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. With Line 3, Biden has the power to order the Army Corps of Engineers to cancel the pipeline’s water crossing permit.

The pipeline is a project of the Canadian energy company Enbridge. Ralliers at Lake Merritt pointed to the company’s past accidents, including in 2010 when an Enbridge pipeline ruptured and spilled 843,000 gallons of oil into a river near Lake Michigan.

On its website, Enbridge claims that the pipeline would create jobs and provide an economic boost to the region.

Whether or not the Biden administration will intervene was up for debate at the Lake Merritt rally.

Nancy Feinstein, who is Shor’s mother and a co-founding member of 1,000 Grandmothers, a grassroots organization of older women, said that she was not certain Biden would step in.

“I don’t think he’s going to unless he’s pushed to,” said Feinstein. “That is why it is extremely important to get people out. Sometimes the progressive movement can just talk to each other online. In this case, it’s really important to get to mainstream folks.”

“I have hope that it is possible,” said Nicole Bloom, a congregant at Kehilla. “The more people that are out and calling on him for action … I think he does have the capacity to pay attention and to respond.

“And we need action,” she said.

Gabriel Greschler

Gabriel Greschler was a staff writer at J. from 2019 to 2021.