Jewish organizations trolled by anti-Semites in Zoom meetings

Online trolls have used the videoconferencing platform to harass and disrupt Jewish groups holding meetings.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

Since the onset of the coronavirus crisis and social distancing requirements, Zoom has become critical in keeping businesses and social connections alive.

The online platform enables people to host video chats with multiple participants, and is used by everyone from business executives leading company meetings to professors teaching students remotely.

But online trolls have taken to disrupting Zoom meetings of Jewish groups with offensive imagery and text, an act that’s been termed “Zoombombing” by the American Jewish civil rights organization ADL (Anti-Defamation League).

All a person needs to enter a videoconference is the URL of the meeting, making it easy for trolls seeking out Jewish organizations’ meetings to Zoombomb them with anti-Semitic attacks.

Last week, a Torah lesson taught by prominent scholar Rabbi Asher Weiss was Zoombombed by anti-Semitic trolls. Ben Ratskoff, a doctoral student who was present during the meeting, described what happened to NBC News.

Several minutes into the meeting, a participant unmuted himself and yelled, “Hitler did nothing wrong!” Another participant changed his Zoom background to a picture of a child holding Hitler’s manifesto Mein Kampf, and others began shouting “Heil Hitler.”

“I was totally caught off-guard,” Ratskoff said to NBC News. “It was a very niche conversation about minutiae in Jewish law.”

The incident comes on the heels of a number of other anti-Semitic Zoombombings, including a Massachusetts Jewish student group meeting disrupted by a known white supremacist who flashed a Nazi tattoo on his chest. Last week, anti-Semitic messages were sent to 250 participants in a London synagogue’s Kabbalat Shabbat Zoom broadcast.

Speaking to Jewish News, Rabbi Josh Levy, who hosted the meeting, said, “The zoom-bombing of our Friday night service with abusive messages was an intrusive violation of our sacred space…It is deeply upsetting that at such a difficult period we are faced with additional challenges like these.”

In response, the ADL has released a guide for Jewish organizations on how to manage Zoombombing. First, the ADL recommends taking preventative measures like disabling screen sharing, disabling file transfers, and muting all participants.

Once the meeting is underway and all participants are present, the host should lock the meeting so nobody else can join. And if a troll manages to get through, the ADL suggests immediately removing the disruptive user and disabling their ability to rejoin the meeting.