Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg pledged this week to donate $2.5 million to the Anti-Defamation League. The money is earmarked for anti-hate programs in Europe and the United States, including anti-bias educational programs.
The social media COO and author of the 2013 New York Times bestseller “Lean In” said she arrived at the decision during Yom Kippur services, after hearing news of the anti-Semitic attack that day in Halle, Germany. Sandberg, a former Google executive recruited by Facebook in 2008, attends Congregation Beth Jacob in Redwood City.
“I was sitting in synagogue, thinking about how, earlier that day, a gunman showed up at a synagogue in Germany, hoping to kill as many Jews as he could,” she wrote in a Facebook post published Oct. 16. “He knew the temple would be full because of the holiday.”
“For over a century, ADL has been fighting hate around the world,” she continued. “Their primary mission is confronting anti-Semitism, and they also work to reduce hate and bigotry of all kinds…because they know that hate begets hate, and attacks on one group of vulnerable people can quickly lead to attacks on others.”
Sandberg cited her parents’ 75th birthdays in making the donation. Joel and Adele Sandberg, an ophthalmologist and teacher, respectively, were active in the movement to aid Jewish refuseniks — those blocked from emigrating out of the Soviet Union — during the 1970s. Sandberg writes in “Lean In” that during a visit in 1975, they were interrogated by Soviet officials and expelled from the country.
“My parents taught my siblings and me to be proud of our Jewish heritage and that leading a meaningful life meant doing what you can to make the world a better place,” she wrote.
The ADL was founded in 1913. In recent years the New York-based nonprofit has seen revenues climb alongside an increase in reported anti-Semitic incidents. In 2017 the ADL received about $72 million in contributions and grants, the most of any year for which information is available, and a 17 percent increase from the previous year.
“We are at a critical juncture in the fight against bigotry because it will take more than words to solve this ever-escalating problem,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement, citing the Halle attack and attacks in Pittsburgh and Poway. “We are honored to receive Sheryl’s generous gift and grateful for her commitment to fighting hate in all of its forms.”
Sandberg made the donation through her foundation, the Sheryl Sandberg & David Goldberg Family Foundation, based in Palo Alto. The private nonprofit is named for Sandberg’s late husband, a former tech CEO, who died unexpectedly of a heart problem while the couple were on vacation in 2015.
Forbes estimates Sandberg’s net worth at $1.7 billion. In 2014 she signed the Giving Pledge, promising to donate at least half of her fortune to philanthropic causes.