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July 31, 2020 1:28 pm

Virtual Tisha B’Av Service Hosted by Dallas Synagogues Disrupted by Antisemitic Messages

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

A screenshot showing some of the antisemitic messages posted by a hijacker who disrupted Shaare Tefillah’s virtual prayer services on July 30, 2020. Photo: Screenshot.

Synagogues in Dallas, Texas, had their joint virtual prayer service hijacked on Thursday morning by an antisemite who shared threatening messages targeting Jews and Israel.

A number of local Orthodox synagogues and rabbis gathered for morning prayers on Zoom with over 100 participants when at around 10:30 a.m. someone infiltrated the service and published messages on the screen that included “Kill all Jews,” “Bomb Israel,” “Free Palestine” and “Hail Hitler.” The swastika symbol was also displayed, as well as “F–k Judaism” and other remarks with expletives targeting Hinduism and African Americans, Rabbi Ariel Racovsky from Congregation Shaare Tefilla, one of the synagogues that participated in the prayer service, told The Algemeiner.

A video of the “Zoom-bombing” was posted on Instagram by one of Shaare Tefilla’s congregants, social media influencer and activist Elizabeth Savetsky. According to the clip, the messages were shared by a user who went by the name Andrew Rodriguez.

The incident took place on Tisha B’Av, the saddest day on the Jewish calendar, on which Jews fast to commemorate a number of disasters in history, primarily the historic destruction of both temples in ancient Jerusalem.

The hate messages appeared for just a few minutes before the account hosting the Zoom call managed to remove the hijacker and shut down the conference, Rabbi Racovsky explained. The congregations then began a second Zoom conference, which attracted more participants than the first call.

Rabbi Racovsky said the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) were notified about the messages, which constituted a federal hate crime.

In a video statement to his congregants following Thursday’s incident, Rabbi Racovsky noted how the timing of the virtual attack was fitting in light of Tisha B’Av. He explained, “These awful people did us a service. They helped us make our Tisha B’Av much more real. If Tisha B’Av was something you couldn’t relate to, if you were on the call this morning, suddenly you could relate much better to Tisha B’Av.”

“Even as we confront our enemies, we are going to succeed. We are going to emerge stronger,” he added. “We are going to triumph in the face of our adversaries. All of the people that want to destroy us, denigrate us and humiliate us, they will not succeed. And they will have to live with the poison and hatred in their souls while we move forward with the Torah in ours…We are going to succeed and emerge stronger as a result of this..No one who tries to Zoom‐bomb us or actually bomb us, or destroy us in any way is ever going to succeed.”

The rabbi also mentioned that he hoped the offenders would be prosecuted “to the fullest extent of the law” after they had been identified. Additionally, Shaare Tefilla has resumed security at its location on Shabbat morning in light of the Zoom attack.

Savetsky told The Algemeiner on Friday, “On the saddest day of the Jewish calendar, our community was reminded just how present hate is towards the Jewish people when our virtual prayer service was hijacked by people spewing horrific antisemitic comments. There were children in attendance. The threat no longer looms in the distance, but it is in our own backyard. We feel violated but we will not stand down”

The mother-of-two said as of Friday morning her video of the incident had been shared over 4,000 times by Jews and Jewish supporters “who are not willing to tolerate this kind of hate.”

“I hope we continue to see the Jewish people speak out against antisemitism in all its forms and stand together in solidarity,” she added.

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