An annual religious service held in Atlanta in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day was disrupted by a cyber-attack.
Threat actors reportedly targeted a Shabbat service that was being broadcast live over the internet from Atlanta synagogue The Temple on January 15. The attack occurred as US Senator-elect Raphael Warnock, the pastor at Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, was delivering a sermon.
People attempting to watch the service live via the Temple’s website were unable to access it, according to a letter penned by the synagogue’s president, Kent Alexander.
Writing to the congregation on Saturday, Alexander said: “To the many of you who tried to log on through the Temple website but could not, and missed the service, we apologize and want to offer an explanation.
“Our website service provider informed our executive director, Mark Jacobson, last night that ‘malicious user agents’ had continuously loaded the Temple website with the objective of shutting it down.”
Alexander did not name the service provider but added that he had been told that the attack was the “largest-ever attack affecting the provider’s network of client synagogues” and that websites across the United States had also been blocked.
“Eventually, access was restored for all, but The Temple was last,” the director wrote. “Our site was down for over an hour into the service.”
The incident is currently under investigation by the authorities. Alexander theorized that the attack was inspired by religious and racial bigotry.
After highlighting that Warnock will soon become Georgia’s first African American senator, Alexander wrote: “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.”
The Temple was founded in 1867 and is located in the city’s midtown. An annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Shabbat service has been hosted there for over a decade.
In 1958, the Temple’s north entrance was bombed by the “Confederate Underground” in an incident denounced by then President Dwight Eisenhower. The bomb, made using 50 sticks of dynamite, caused damage valued at $750k today.