“First they came for the socialists, and I didn’t speak – because I wasn’t a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t say anything — Because I didn’t I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came looking for the Jews, and I didn’t say anything — because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came looking for me and there was no one left to speak for me.
These words are in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. They were written by Pastor Martin Niemoller calling for the cowardice of those in Germany, including himself, who did not speak out against the Nazi persecution of the Jewish people among others.
The words recall the quote “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”.
Last week, the Jewish community was shaken by the words of Entrata founder and board member David Bateman, who claimed, among other things, that Pope Francis was an undercover Jewish person sent to infiltrate Israel. Catholic Church and also that COVID-19 vaccines were developed by Jews as part of a conspiracy to wipe out the non-Jewish population of America.
Unfortunately, Bateman did not invent these theories. They were peddled, without a shred of evidence, on conspiracy websites that were once considered nonsensical and insane, but are now finding a following in our country. These views are not only laughable how outrageous they are, they are sadly dangerous as we have seen anti-Semitism increase throughout our country in recent years and were reminiscent of the Black Death blood libels in Europe amid the 1300s. .
While today we know that fleas on rats were the cause of the plague which potentially killed a third of the population of Europe, a rumor was started that the plague was started by Jews poisoning wells to eradicate the non-Jewish population of Europe. Over 200 Jewish communities were destroyed over the next three years by anti-Semitic mobs who believed this ridiculous idea, and tens of thousands of Jews were burned to death and violently killed. For us, Bateman’s words touched on a collective narrative for our people, and our proximity to Silicon Slope made his words even scarier.
Entrata’s reaction to their founder’s rhetoric was swift. They immediately forced Bateman’s resignation from the board, condemned his anti-Semitism, then forced him to divest his shares in the company, and I understand he was the largest shareholder. Their swift, unequivocal and decisive action is commendable and would have been enough for my community.
However, this was not enough for Entrata. A few days after Bateman’s email surfaced, I received a phone call from the company asking if I could visit their head office to meet with their management team. I accepted the invitation, expecting to come downstairs, be lip serviced that Bateman’s words did not reflect company values, and be invited to a photo shoot to smooth things over with the public.
However, when I arrived at Entrata, I found a council room full of broken people whose eyes were filled with tears telling me how sincerely sorry they were that someone in their community had caused pain to the people in my community. Rather than talk to me, they wanted to listen to me and learn from me. People in the room asked me to explain to them the history of anti-Semitism and what direct impact Bateman’s words have had on people in our community, especially our youth. They wanted to do more than just listen.
The leaders in the room had heard about how my synagogue, Congregation Kol Ami, is a center of Jewish learning where we instill in our young people pride and knowledge of their Jewish faith, culture and identity. , and how our 50 year old building is run down and in need of repairs so that we can continue to have this place of learning.
Without hesitation, they offered to give a transformative gift so that we could continue to have a place to educate our children on how to fight hate like Bateman’s for decades to come. They also asked me if I could come back to their company this week to do training for their thousands of employees, including those from other countries, on how to fight anti-Semitism and be an ally, and expressed a desire to visit a Holocaust Memorial and Museum.
Now it was my turn to be moved to tears, especially since they told me they weren’t going to publicize any of these measures they were doing, they were doing it because it was just, not for damage control or notoriety.
The next morning at my community’s Shabbat services, I gave a sermon on Bateman’s words and compared them to the harshness of the Pharaoh we were talking about in the Torah that day. I told my community what Entrata’s response was and how it differed from the silence we saw among the Egyptians described from the average German citizen in Niemoller’s poem during World War II.
At the back of the room, I saw a few individuals walk in quietly and sit at the back of the room, not wanting to be noticed by anyone. They had their heads in their hands as they listened to my words and prayed alongside our community. I recognized them as members of the Entrata management team. They needed prayer with the brokenness they were experiencing, and they found that repair with us.
When I finished giving my sermon, for the first time in my four years as a rabbi at Kol Ami, the congregation burst into applause. Then my followers told me, “Anti-Semitism is common, being an ally and fighting it is not,” and urged me to go public with what Entrata had done. “They don’t deserve to be roped with a bad apple, they should be held up as an example of what it means for a company to fight hate.”
In Judaism, there are two of the most important principles that we promote: teshuvah and tikkun olam. Teshuva is what we practice on our holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur, and it is often translated as “repentance.” To perform teshuvah, you are supposed to do three things to atone for a sin that you or members of your community have committed: pray, give to charity, and not only say you are sorry, but take steps to ensure that the transgression that has been committed will not happen again.
Tikkun Olam literally means ‘fixing the world’ and it is a call to action for us to identify a part of the world that is broken and try to fix it. In my years as a rabbi, I never thought that where I would see the greatest example of these Jewish values was on the Silicon Slopes of Utah by people outside the Jewish community.
Entrata, has set the bar for anyone who wants to demonstrate how to be an ally to the Jewish community and a fighter against another scourge facing our nation, growing anti-Semitism. Yes, David Bateman is an embarrassment to the state of Utah, but the company he founded, which would oust him, should be a source of pride for every Utahn, I certainly believe that she would make the late Pastor Niemoller proud.
Rabbi Samuel Spector is Rabbi of Congregation Kol Ami in Salt Lake City.