Could the hateful rantings of one man prove to be a catalyst for lifting Utah’s business community to a higher level of understanding and conduct when it comes to issues of bigotry and intolerance?
Last week, one-time Utah tech entrepreneur Dave Bateman sent a disturbing, antisemitic email to dozens of Utah business executives, elected officials and state leaders that included claims the COVID-19 vaccines were part of a conspiracy coordinated by “the Jews” to conduct a “systemic extermination of billions of people” and “consolidate all the countries in the world under a single flag with totalitarian rule.”
The screed was met with widespread condemnation, and the company Bateman co-founded in 2003, apartment management software innovator Entrata, took actions in response. Those included the Entrata board of directors asking for, and receiving, Bateman’s resignation from his position as board chairman. The board later requested he divest himself of all financial interest in the company, a directive the company reported Bateman will comply with.
In a less public move following Bateman’s email, Entrata also reached out to Rabbi Sam Spector of Salt Lake City’s Congregation Kol Ami synagogue.
Spector said an initial phone call led to his meeting with a group of Entrata executives, an experience he called a first in his time as a rabbi. Ahead of that meeting, Spector said he had some degree of skepticism about the request.
“I expected they would offer lip service after this thing that happened,” Spector said. “But, that’s not what it was.”
Spector said Entrata executives were visibly emotional on greeting him at their Lehi headquarters and shared their anguish over “someone from our community causing so much pain for your community.”
“They asked how they could become allies of the Jewish community,” Spector said. “They said they were here to listen to what I had to say and wanted to learn how to become allies in battling antisemitism.”
To that end, Spector said he is conducting a virtual seminar with all 2,500 Entrata employees, offering some education on the history of antisemitism as well as how to combat a rising tide of hate speech and hate-motivated crimes that Spector said have been on the rise.
Entrata has also made a financial contribution to Kol Ami, and though Spector declined to specify the amount, said the “six-figure” donation will help cover the cost of much needed repairs and improvements at the 50-year-old synagogue, including a new boiler, prayer books and other upgrades.
Company executives asked that the donation be kept under wraps and noted their focus was on how to partner with the Jewish community, he said.
“That’s what impressed me the most,” Spector said. “We’ve seen before when people want to make a donation to get themselves out of hot water. But Entrata is working proactively to be an ally and they’re setting an incredible example of how to do that.
“The catalyst for this was a person doing the wrong thing, and Entrata is taking the stance of what they can do to learn and improve from this. I would encourage every single company in being equally proactive in saying, ‘We don’t want a Dave Bateman in our community and how do we combat that early on.’”
Spector offered his expertise to any Utah company that is interested in learning more about the long history of antisemitism and how to build a workplace of tolerance.
While Entrata declined a Deseret News request for an interview on the matter, company CEO Adam Edmunds shared a statement.
“At Entrata, we respect and support all religions, genders, sexual orientations, races and beliefs,” Edmunds said. “We condemn antisemitism in any and all forms. We are fully committed to continuing to work with Jewish leaders to provide education for not only our company but for the broader community as we work with them directly to fight antisemitism.
“Initial efforts include donation and partnership commitments aimed to support tolerance and education around these critical issues, both locally and nationally. We are grateful for the guidance and instruction we’ve received from the Jewish community as we work to increase our understanding and knowledge.”
Entrata has also been identified as the sponsor of a new statewide effort launched by tech sector advocacy group Utah Tech Leads following Bateman’s email becoming public.
The Tech for Good Initiative is aiming “to combat all forms of discrimination, including antisemitism, racism, gender identity, sexual orientation and many others” through work that will include hosting ongoing education and training opportunities for Utah business owners and their employees.
Tech Leads reports over 70 Utah companies have already joined the initiative, and the group has scheduled the first in a series of monthly programs aimed at bolstering tolerance and inclusion in the workplace. The debut seminar will feature a presentation and discussion on faith in the workplace.
Tech Leads CEO and veteran tech entrepreneur Sunny Washington said the goal is to create forums where conversations can happen about how to build the best and most inclusive work environments that are supported by managers and employees focused on inclusion and diversity.
“It is awesome to see 70-plus companies from Utah’s tech community express their support for this important mission,” Washington said in a statement. “We all know that culture is paramount to ongoing success, and that knowledgeable speakers on topics we don’t always talk about every day are important to company and community growth.
“We also appreciate Entrata’s quick and decisive action in this effort and their willingness to step up and sponsor this program. These partnerships go a long way in building a better and more positive working environment for everyone.”
To learn more about the Tech for Good initiative, visit utahtechleads.com.