VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Leadership at an East Vancouver synagogue say a Holocaust denier snuck into their virtual gathering this weekend, in what they’re calling a “Zoom bombing.”
Due to public health orders banning in-person gatherings, synagogues like Or Shalom have turned to tools like Zoom. But Sunday evening, someone with what synagogue co-chair David Kauffman calls a “classically Jewish sounding name” logged in to take part, and kept their video off and microphone muted for most of the service before disrupting with what sounded like a recording of Holocaust denial at “a screaming level.”
“Having someone jump in to what’s really a religious service — where people are quite open, vulnerable, and caring — and to have that kind of hateful invective thrown into the middle of the service, it’s very disturbing,” Kauffman added.
“When people are coming to a religious service, we’re trying to connect to our spiritual selves. We’re in community. We’re expressing some of the sadness for the state the world is in and hope for the future,” he said.
A disturbing incident at an East Vancouver synagogue. Leadership at Or Shalom tells me a Holocaust denier disrupted a weekend virtual service on Zoom. The synagogue's co-chair believes U.S. President Trump has "emboldened hatred," pointing to last week's events. More @NEWS1130
— Martin MacMahon (@martinmacmahon) January 11, 2021
Or Shalom is reviewing its screening practices due to this situation, and Kauffman says the incident was reported to Zoom. He believes the platform could provide better features to help out with this challenge.
“It’s fairly easy to lock down Zoom to make it almost impossible for anybody who you haven’t explicitly invited to come to your Zoom meetings. But that’s not our path. Our path is, at this time — when people really need to connect to community, when they need a spiritual uplift, when they need a sense of belonging — we’re not going to lock it down so people can’t find their way. We’ll just have to find a balance between continuing to be open and still be able to preserve a safe space from people like this, who want to attack.”
Was just in an evening prayer group with the synagogue I have been "attending" in Vancouver, via Zoom, and we got Zoom bombed by Holocaust deniers. First time that has ever happened. Things are escalating.
— Paula Kirman ✡️????????️???? (@apaulagetics) January 11, 2021
He wishes Zoom’s “waiting room” feature — which allows the host to see the name of a person before they are admitted to the virtual meeting — would give more information about people who would like to join.
“If we’d seen their email, we would have seen that it was a fake email. If we had been able to say, ‘Look, we’d like to see you before you join the community because we don’t know you,’ that would have been a good step.”
Kauffman believes there’s a link to what we saw in the U.S. last week, claiming U.S. President Donald Trump has emboldened hatred. He adds they recently heard from another synagogue in California, which also dealt with a Holocaust denier who entered their Zoom sessions.
“It’s happening all around us. In our little corner of Vancouver, we’re not immune from it, either. This was a reminder that hatred is out there and looking for places to attack,” he said, adding it’s vital to fight hatred and not let it win.