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Toronto police investigating anti-Semitic ‘Zoom-bombing’ of Toronto synagogue service
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Published Friday, June 12, 2020 4:22PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, June 12, 2020 4:47PM EDT
Toronto police say they are investigating after the online prayer services of a midtown synagogue were “zoom-bombed” with hateful messages.
The incident occurred on June 5 as congregants of the Village Shul were taking part in an online Zoom meeting to welcome the Sabbath.
According to Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC), which issued a statement about the incident Friday, several people interrupted the call, with one yelling an anti-Semitic message referencing the Holocaust.
According to the statement, the rabbi and 150 congregants on the call were “horrified” by the incident, which has since been reported to police.
“The Toronto Police Service is aware of this and investigating the incident,” Toronto police Const. Michelle Flannery told CP24.com in an email.
Several other Toronto synagogues have also reported hateful zoom-bombing incidents of online prayer services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As the coronavirus pandemic has forced us to take our community events online, we have seen a growing and disturbing effort by anti-Semites to target the Jewish community with online expressions of hate and Zoom-bombing attacks,” Jaime Kirzner-Roberts, director of the Campaign Against Antisemitism at FSWC, said in a release. “We ask Jewish community organizations to implement all possible precautions to ensure the online security of their members, and we urge police to take appropriate actions when online anti-Semitic attacks occur in order to bring perpetrators to justice.”
Zoom has exploded in popularity as a way to hold online meetings and gatherings since the pandemic put a halt to in-person gatherings in March. However security experts have urged users to implement safety controls on the technology to avoid having meetings hijacked.
After being closed for months, houses of worship across Ontario are allowed to reopen today, but with some restrictions. Among them, worshippers must maintain physical distancing of at least six feet and houses of worship may admit no more than 30 per cent of a building’s regular capacity.
However some places of worship have said that they will continue to take advantage of virtual options for the time being in order to protect the health of vulnerable congregants.
Anyone with information about the incident is being asked to contact investigators.