Hackers disrupted US Senator-elect Raphael Warnock's sermon to honor Martin Luther King Jr at a virtual MLK Shabbat service hosted by an Atlanta synagogue on January 15. The disruption caused by the cyberattack blocked viewers from hearing the inspirational words of Georgia's first black senator-elect.
Kent Alexander, president of The Temple, an Atlanta synagogue, said in a letter that according to the website's service provider "malicious user agents... continuously loaded the Temple website with the objective of shutting it down. In doing so, they blocked access not only to The Temple but to every other synagogue client website across the country."
It was also said that this cybersecurity incident was the "largest-ever attack" that affected the provider's network. It shut down streaming from The Temple website on Friday evening for an hour. But Facebook and YouTube streaming were unaffected.
According to Alexander, the cybercriminals wanted to target the annual joint service between The Temple and Ebenezer Baptist, the church where King preached until his assassination in 1968 and now where Warnock is a senior pastor.
"Presumably, The Temple was singled out by a racist and anti-Semitic group or individual bent on silencing our joint Temple-Ebenezer Baptist Church MLK Jr. Shabbat," said Alexander.
Warnock, whose election victory in Georgia helped Democrats retake the US Senate, has delivered the joint sermon for 12 years. Another Democrat Jon Ossoff, who is Jewish, is also a member of The Temple.
MLK Shabbat Service
The MLK Shabbat service, an annual event honoring King's legacy, was conducted by The Temple, the oldest Jewish congregation in the city that was founded in 1860 shortly before the Civil War, along with the Ebenezer Baptist Church.
The Temple has its own historical ties to the civil rights movement in the US. Jacob Rothschild, the rabbi in the late 1950s was an outspoken advocate for racial equality. The Temple was bombed in 1958 by suspected white supremacists in response to Rothschild's activism.
Unlike previous events in the past, the 36th annual service was conducted virtually because of the Coronavirus pandemic. After the cyberattack on Friday, many local rabbis came out in solidarity with The Temple.
Adam Starr, the rabbi of the Atlanta-based modern-Orthodox Ohr Hatorah, wrote on his Facebook page, "There is still much work to be done fighting the hate of antisemitism and racism." However, according to Alexander, authorities are conducting an investigation of the hack.