Pelham Jewish Center’s Friday online services Zoom-bombed with swastikas and obscenities


The Pelham Jewish Center

The increasing nationwide problem of hijacking of online video-teleconferences—called Zoom-bombing—made a disturbing, hate-filled entrance into the Pelham community on Friday.

At about 5:30 p.m., the Pelham Jewish Center’s Shabbat evening services, which were being held via Zoom in compliance with New York State’s stay-at-home order, were interrupted by an unidentified individual who gained control of the meeting and placed anti-Semitic, racial and sexual obscenities onto the screen.

The service was first disrupted by a hand-drawn swastika that filled the visual, followed by an onslaught of profanities and offensive language in the session’s chat.

“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” said one congregant who was attending the virtual service at the time. “I was stunned.”

The incident went on for several minutes before Rabbi Alex Salzberg regained control of the session and was able to continue with the evening services. Salzberg has not yet responded to an emailed request for comment.

For the Town of Pelham, this hateful act comes amidst a recent upswing in similar disturbances this year. Last October, two swastikas were found in the Pelham Middle School boys locker room, then in January a “racial epithet” was found written on a window sill in a PMHS bathroom. These incidents sparked district-wide discussions about tolerance, as well as investigations by the schools and local law enforcement. Yet, another racial slur was found carved into the bathroom stalls in Colonial School just last month.

It remains unclear how the perpetrator of Friday’s incident was able to gain control of the PJC’s Zoom conference, though a link to the session was attached in an email to members of the congregation days in advance.

Online disturbances like these are becoming all-too-common as most of the country remains under stay-at-home order, forcing classes, meetings, and other community gatherings to take place online. The Federal Bureau of Investigation recently reported having “received multiple reports of conferences being disrupted by pornographic and/or hate images and threatening language” since late March. In response, the government has issued the following guidelines to prevent online conference hijacking:

  • Do not make meetings or classrooms public. In Zoom, there are two options to make a meeting private: require a meeting password or use the waiting room feature and control the admittance of guests.
  • Do not share a link to a teleconference or classroom on an unrestricted publicly available social media post. Provide the link directly to specific people.
  • Manage screensharing options. In Zoom, change screensharing to “Host Only.”
  • Ensure users are using the updated version of remote access/meeting applications. In January 2020, Zoom updated their software. In their security update, the teleconference software provider added passwords by default for meetings and disabled the ability to randomly scan for meetings to join.
  • Lastly, ensure that your organization’s telework policy or guide addresses requirements for physical and information security.
  • If you were a victim of a teleconference hijacking, or any cyber-crime for that matter, report it to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at Additionally, if you receive a specific threat during a teleconference, please report it to us at