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Protocol | Workplace

Hundreds of tech leaders sign letter rallying against anti-Semitism

"As business leaders, we have a collective responsibility to stand up for the society we want."

Affirm CEO Max Levchin is among the signatories of a letter standing up against anti-Semitic hate crimes.

Affirm CEO Max Levchin is among the signatories of a letter standing up against anti-Semitic hate crimes.

Photo: Affirm

Hundreds of tech investors, leaders and workers have signed a letter taking a stand against anti-Semitism in the U.S. after a recent string of attacks against Jewish people across the country.

Signatories of the letter include Affirm CEO Max Levchin, Thumbtack CEO Marco Zappacosta, Zynga chairman and founder Mark Pincus, Cowboy Ventures partner Aileen Lee and former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, along with the founders of companies like MasterClass, Warby Parker and Getaround. Figures from the world of entertainment and media also signed, including ViacomCBS chair Shari Redstone, Thrive Global CEO Arianna Huffington and actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

"If we're going to stand against hate in all its forms, we need to stand against anti-Semitism. Too few Americans acknowledge that anti-Semitism — prejudice against Jewish people — exists. It is an insidious and long-standing hatred," the letter said.

Enrich founder Jordana Stein said she felt compelled to write the letter after seeing the rise of anti-Semitic incidents across the U.S. There were more than twice as many anti-Semitic incidents in May 2021 compared to May 2020, the Anti-Defamation League reported on Monday, with the rise in incidents corresponding to the violence in the Middle East.

Stein wants to make clear, though, that the letter doesn't have to do with the actions of Israel, but is about the rise of anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S., like recent vandalism against synagogues in Arizona. The letter states that "regardless of your views on Israel," it is "about protecting people from the injustice of anti-Semitism and hatred."

"The politics of what's happening in another country should never mean violence or attacks against people based on their religion," Stein said. "This really isn't about the politics of Israel, but standing up for ... the American right to practice religion," she added.

The tech industry has taken a more proactive stance in recent years and has rallied against hate crimes against several minority groups. In the wake of the murder of George Floyd, the tech industry supported the Black Lives Matter movement through new pledges and financial donations. There's also been a wave of awareness of hate crimes against Asians following March's mass shooting in Atlanta. In tech, many Asian Americans told Protocol that they faced a "unique flavor of oppression." Tech leaders also united in support of the Asian community.

At the same time, the rise in political and social activism has created a backlash. A few companies have publicly pulled back from speaking about politics at work and are no longer supporting causes that they view as falling outside their business mission.

"If companies say you can't talk politics at work, does that mean you can't stand up against anti-Semitism? If so, that's absurd," Bloomberg Beta investor Roy Bahat told Protocol.

After a year of support from the tech ecosystem in support of other diverse groups, Stein felt it was time to speak out against the violence against the Jewish community. She helped draft the letter with the aid of people like Bahat and others in the tech community. They started circulating it privately in the tech community before posting publicly this week. Jewish Insider first reported on the letter's existence.

Stein said she has hundreds more names to add after the letter received support from all corners of the tech industry. The most recent list included product managers at Google, a former NBA player, tech investor Baron Davis and Backstage Capital's Arlan Hamilton.

"I think folks get that this is a real form of hate. This isn't about politics, but this is about discrimination against people based on their religion," Bahat said.

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