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A Utah rabbi says ‘tangible change’ is needed after a local tech leader’s antisemitic email

Salt Lake City Rabbi Avremi Zippel
Chabad Photo Archive
A Utah tech leader sparked controversy after he sent a Jan. 3 email filled with antisemitic conspiracy theories to political and tech leaders in the state. Among those condemning his statements is Salt Lake City Rabbi Avremi Zippel.

Embers are still warm from the firestorm sparked by a Utah tech leader’s antisemitic claims. Entrata founder Dave Bateman detailed the offensive conspiracy theories in an email sent to political leaders and other tech CEOs last week. Since then, Bateman has stepped down and divested himself of his company holdings.

Rabbi Avremi Zippel is with Chabad Lubavitch of Utah — the Salt Lake City branch of the world’s largest Jewish religious, education and humanitarian outreach organization. He has publicly voiced his exasperation with Bateman’s comments.

Zippel spoke with KUER’s Pamela McCall about what this incident means to the Jewish community in Utah.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Pamela McCall: You wrote in a tweet that Bateman got almost an “antisemitic bingo” in his email. What do you mean by that?

Rabbi Avremi Zippel: I think that it is astonishing in the sense how he went for almost every possible antisemitic trope that there is in the span of four short paragraphs — between the censorship in the media, the Hasidic community enacting their own laws, the attempted overthrowing of the Catholic Church to install a Jewish pope. And notwithstanding the absolute lack of credibility that it has, it is still deeply offensive and troubling.

PM: What went through your bones when you read it?

AZ: I think that the sentiment that's been going around about this email is he really said the quiet part aloud. We live in a day and age where there's no shortage of conspiracy theories: the Jews are behind this. It was astonishing to see that sentiment, not by some anonymous Facebook poster in some dark corner of the internet, but in this email that goes out to our shiniest and brightest in our society. It was shocking.

PM: To clarify, the Jews are behind what?

AZ: It's unclear if [it was] “the Jews unleashed the virus” or just the conspiracy to cover it up with the vaccine. I'm still trying to get to the bottom of it myself.

PM: In the wake of the Bateman email release, you also stated that, "nonsense like this metastasizes into violence against our community." What are you experiencing and has anything happened since the email was released?

AZ: Thankfully, no, and we're grateful for that. The comment that I made about the metastasizing is based on history that we've seen even during the COVID era. I think we saw this a lot in the earlier parts of COVID when there were serious attempts in various cities to “other” the Jewish community. Everyone is participating, everyone is behaving except for the Jewish community — except for the Hasidic community. And we saw how in short order there was targeted violence. Jews were being beaten in the streets of large American metropolises. And what people need to realize is the email effectively creates this reality that the Jews are somehow this faceless cabal that lives in some ivory tower, that are sitting there and scheming against the rest of the world. The Jews are people who live in your community. You might work with someone who's a member of the Jewish faith. You probably shop for groceries with someone who's a member of the Jewish faith. You go to the gym with someone who's a member of the Jewish faith.

PM: The Salt Lake Tribune reported on Friday Utah Rabbi Samuel Spector met with the remaining Entrata board members and that they apologized. Rabbi Spector was quoted as saying that a lot of board members were in tears, and he praised Entrata for its actions. Entrata also gave what it calls a "transformational gift" to Spector's congregation. What do you make of that?

AZ: I applaud them for that. I do. I think at the same time, it's also important that we keep our eye on the ball and make sure that we don't just suffice with cutting checks. We make sure that the inspiration that has been generated as a result of this incident leads to hard core, tangible change.

PM: Utah Democrats claim that Bateman is a prominent member of and major donor to the Republican Party. They also claim that Entrata is a donor. In a release, the Republican Party said it condemned antisemitism. Do you see any link between antisemitism and state politics in Utah?

AZ: The greatest risk that we run as a society is turning antisemitism or racism or intolerance of any kind into a political football. I think that instead of focusing on the issues at hand and instead of focusing on rooting out antisemitism, we run the risk of, this is “us versus you.” And to me, the single greatest threat to truly making a difference against driving out antisemitism is turning it into yet another political wedge issue.

PM: Bateman's antisemitic rhetoric is out there. How do you pull that back when some people might have absorbed it?

AZ: The moment there were Jews, there were those that had their biases and their hatred towards Jews. As we see it, those comments are out there. The only thing that we can do as a society, as the Jewish community, is continue to live our lifestyles and [with] the attitude of being a light unto the nations.

Pamela is KUER's All Things Considered Host.
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