Hackers shut down Atlanta synagogue website during MLK weekend sermon delivered by Warnock

Democratic Candidate for U.S. Senate Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock speak at a campaign event to encourage people to vote in Atlanta on Dec. 14, 2020. (Megan Varner/Getty Images)

Ron Kampeas

(JTA) — Hackers shut down an Atlanta synagogue’s live stream of Senator-Elect Raphael Warnock delivering a sermon to honor Martin Luther King, whose church he leads.

Kent Alexander, The Temple’s president, said in a letter sent Saturday to congregants that the website’s service provider said “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.”

The service provider, whom Alexander did not name, said “this was the largest-ever attack affecting the provider’s network of client synagogues.” The attack shut down streaming from the Temple website for an hour on Friday evening. The event was also available on Facebook live and on YouTube, where there was no disruption of service.

Alexander said the likely target was the annual joint service between The Temple and Ebenezer Baptist, the church where Raphael Warnock is senior pastor and where King preached until his 1968 assassination.

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“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,” Alexander said.

Warnock, whose election this month helped Democrats retake the U.S. Senate, has delivered the joint sermon for 12 years. Also elected this month was another Democrat, Jon Ossoff, who is a member of The Temple and who is Jewish. Both candidates accused their Republican rivals of trafficking in racist and anti-Semitic themes during the election.

Warnock is the first African American and Ossoff is the first Jew Georgia has elected to the Senate, and each repeatedly invoked the civil rights-era Black-Jewish alliance during their campaigning.

The letter concluded by quoting the sermon delivered Friday night by The Temple’s rabbi, Peter Berg.

“Tonight is about tikvah – the Hebrew word for hope,” Berg said. “Hope that these iconic institutions – Ebenezer Baptist Church and The Temple — can continue to take steps toward this vision and the dream that defined the life of Dr. King.”

White Supremacists bombed The Temple in 1958 because of its involvement in the civil rights movement.