Samuel Spector: Entrata’s response to its founder’s anti-Semitism showed the best of our state and how to be an ally.

Corporation reached out to Utah Jewish congregation after their founder tweeted some hateful things.

“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

These words are found at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. They were written by Pastor Martin Niemoller calling out the cowardice of those within Germany, including himself, who did not speak out against the persecution of the Nazis against the Jewish people among others.

The words are reminiscent of the quote “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Last week, the Jewish community was shaken by the words of Entrata’s founder and board member, David Bateman, who claimed, among other things, that Pope Francis was an undercover Jewish person sent to infiltrate the Catholic Church and also that the COVID-19 vaccines were developed by Jews as part of a plot to annihilate the non-Jewish population of America.

Sadly, Bateman did not invent these theories. They have been peddled, with not a shred of evidence whatsoever, on conspiracy websites that used to be dismissed as nonsense and lunacy but are today finding a following in our country. These views are not just laughable at how outrageous they are, they are unfortunately dangerous as we have seen anti-Semitism rise throughout our country in recent years and were reminiscent of the blood libels of the Black Plague in Europe in the mid-1300′s.

While today we know that the fleas on rats were the cause of the plague that killed potentially 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 in the following three years from anti-Semitic mobs who believed this ludicrous notion, and tens of thousands of Jews were burned alive and killed in the violence. For us, Bateman’s words touched on a collective narrative for our people, and our proximity to the Silicon Slope’s made his words all the scarier.

Entrata’s reaction to their founder’s rhetoric was swift. They immediately forced Bateman’s resignation from the board, condemned his anti-Semitism and then forced him to divest his shares in the company, and it is my understanding that he was the largest stockholder. Their quick, unequivocal and decisive action is applaudable and would have been enough for my community.

However, it was not enough for Entrata. A few days after Bateman’s email surfaced, I received a phone call from the company asking me if I could visit their headquarters to meet with their executive team. I accepted the invitation, expecting to go down, be given lip service about how Bateman’s words did not reflect the values of the company and be asked for a photo op to smooth things over with the public.

However, when I arrived at Entrata, I found a board room full of broken people whose eyes ere filled with tears telling me how genuinely sorry they were that someone in their community caused pain to people in my community. Rather than talking at me, they wanted to listen and learn from me. The people in the room asked me to explain the history of anti-Semitism to them and what the direct impact was of Bateman’s words on the people in our community, especially our youth. They wanted to do more than just listen though.

The leaders in the room had heard about how my synagogue, Congregation Kol Ami, is a center for Jewish learning where we instill in our youth pride and knowledge of their Jewish faith, culture and identity, and how our 50-year-old building is dilapidated and in need of repair for us to continue to have this place of learning.

Without hesitation, they offered to make a transformative gift so that we could continue to have a place to educate our children about how to combat hatred like Bateman’s for decades to come. They also asked me if I could come back to their company this week to do a training for their thousands of employees, including those in other countries, on how to combat anti-Semitism and to be an ally, and expressed a desire to visit a Holocaust memorial and museum.

It was now my turn to be moved to tears, especially as they told me that they were not going to publicize any of these steps they were doing, they were doing it because it was right, not for damage control or notoriety.

The next morning, at my community’s Shabbat services, I gave a sermon about Bateman’s words and compared them to the harshness of the Pharaoh that we were reading about in the Torah that day. I told my community of what Entrata’s response was, and how they differed from the silence that we saw among the Egyptians and that was described of the average German citizen in Niemoller’s poem during World War II.

In the back of the room, I saw a few individuals quietly come in and sit in 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 to be members of the executive team of Entrata. They were in need of prayer with the brokenness that they were experiencing, and they found that repair with us.

When I finished giving my sermon, for the first time in my four years of being a rabbi at Kol Ami the congregation burst into applause. Afterwards my congregants told me, “Anti-Semitism is common, being an ally and combatting it is not,” and urged me to go public with what Entrata had done. “They do not deserve to be roped in with one bad apple, they should be highlighted as an example of what it means for a company to fight hatred.”

In Judaism, there are two principals that are among the most important that we promote: teshuva 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 do teshuva, you are supposed to do three things to atone for a sin you or those in your community have committed: prayer, giving to charity and not only saying you are sorry, but taking steps to make sure that the transgression that was committed does not occur again.

Tikkun Olam means literally “repairing the world” and it is a call to action for us to identify a part of the world that is broken and to 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 not in the Jewish community.

Entrata, has set the bar for anyone who wants to show how to be an ally to the Jewish community and a combatant against another plague our nation is facing, growing anti-Semitism. Yes, David Bateman is an embarrassment on the state of Utah, but the company that he founded, which would go on to oust him, should be a source of pride to every Utahn, I certainly believe they would make the late Pastor Niemoller proud.

Rabbi Samuel Spector is rabbi of Congregation Kol Ami in Salt Lake City.