The Temple’s Shabbat service honoring the memory of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was targeted in a Friday night cyber-attack that prevented an untold number of people from accessing the event online for upwards of an hour.
The 36th annual service, held in conjunction with Ebenezer Baptist Church for the 13th year, included a sermon delivered by newly elected U.S. Sen. Rev. Raphael Warnock, senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist.
In an email sent Saturday to The Temple’s membership, congregation president Kent Alexander said: “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. In doing so, they blocked access not only to The Temple, but to every other synagogue client website across the country. Eventually, access was restored for all, but The Temple was last. Our site was down for over an hour into the service. Mark was told this was the largest-ever attack affecting the provider’s network of client synagogues.
“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 wrote, adding that “Authorities are conducting an investigation.”
The AJT has attempted, without success, to get comment from Shul Cloud, the service provider. According to published reports, Shul Cloud provides services to some 1,200 congregations worldwide.
Any other year, The Temple’s sanctuary for the annual event would have been filled and overflowing, but as a COVID-19 precaution the pews were empty on Jan. 15 — the 91st birthday of the slain civil rights leader — and the service was a virtual production with recorded segments. Warnock customarily preaches from The Temple’s pulpit, but his 2021 sermon was delivered from the downtown Atlanta church where King was among his predecessors.
In his introduction, Rabbi Peter Berg, senior rabbi at The Temple, noted “our preacher, my friend and teacher,” recently “added just a small item” to his resume, that of United States senator.
Warnock and fellow Democrat Jon Ossoff expect to be sworn in this week, once the state certifies results of the runoffs in which Warnock defeated interim Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Ossoff unseated incumbent Republican Sen. David Perdue.
On behalf of Warnock, who will be the first African American senator from Georgia, Berg said, “May you go from strength to strength. … We pray for your wisdom and discernment. …You have a genuine loving concern for all of God’s children. You stand up against the anti-Semitism and racism and hatred. You support the State of Israel. You speak truth to power,” Berg said.
Warnock, who intends to continue preaching to his congregation, made “unfinished business” his theme, rooting his sermon in the Book of Nehemiah and the rebuilding of the walls protecting Jerusalem in the Second Temple period. Warnock pronounced himself “inspired by Nehemiah, that bold, brilliant, and trailblazing brother, who set out during difficult days to rebuild that which was broken.”
Speaking of the world today, Warnock said, “These are tough times. These are difficult days. We’ve all suffered under this thick fog of a global pandemic that has exposed longstanding inequities, work that is yet unfinished, the building of what Dr. King and others called ‘the beloved community.’”
Warnock celebrated the history shared by The Temple and Ebenezer Baptist, dating back to the support that Rabbi Jacob Rothschild gave to the civil rights movement led by King and others. Warnock named Rabbi Alvin Sugarman, now rabbi emeritus at The Temple, and the late Rev. Joseph L. Roberts, senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist, in the next generation as “rabbi and pastor, standing side by side, doing the work. And now Rabbi Berg and your’s truly, and all who work beside us,” on such issues as human trafficking, mass incarceration and poverty.
Toward the conclusion of his sermon, Warnock addressed the political moment and referenced his future and Ossoff’s. “It really isn’t a political affirmation. I am so grateful for this moment and I hope you can see it, regardless of your politics, thank God for this moment. The election is now over and standing together you have the pastor of Ebenezer Church, where Martin King stood, a kid who grew up in public housing, standing alongside a young Jewish man, the son of an immigrant, on our way to represent this state in the Senate. Regardless of your politics, will you pray for us?” Warnock asked of the congregation assembled online.