WESTCHESTER COUNTY, New York (WABC) -- An investigation is underway into recent anti-Semitic "zoom-bombing" of Jewish religious services in Westchester County that were being video streamed in an effort to bring people together while following social distancing directives amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Westchester County District Attorney Anthony Scarpino said the incidents took place via a Jewish center video stream on Friday, April 3, 2020, and a second incident the following week from another congregation.
In both cases, congregation leadership had sent email invitations for anyone to join the interactive video stream when an unknown person or persons logged into the Zoom-based video conference and interrupted the services with anti-Semitic acts, including posting swastikas and other offensive material for all participants to see.
The DA's Office is working with local police in Pelham Manor and Scarsdale to identify those responsible.
"We have issued subpoenas and are reviewing a recording and other materials of the events," Scarpino said. "Together, our Cybercrime Bureau is working hard to trace the digital footprint of the perpetrators and our Hate Crime Unit is looking into the specific aspects of the incidents and what criminal charges might apply."
The acts follow continuing investigations into hateful emails sent to residents and a business owner in New Rochelle in February after the COVID-19 outbreak began.
"Everyone during the COVID-19 crisis is trying to bring people together using technology, but there will always be bad actors who find ways to exploit it," Scarpino said. "These anti-Semitic attacks are hateful and hurtful. My office is working with local police and federal authorities to find out who may have done this and whether they will be charged with a crime. As always, we stand with our friends in Westchester of every faith to protect their freedom to worship uninterrupted whether in person or online. We continue to work with our community partners to stop hate in Westchester."
Anyone using video conferencing software is advised to always record the video stream in order to have a digital record of any issues that may take place.
Any organization that has been similarly affected is asked to report it to your local police or the district attorney's office.
Meanwhile, the Anti-Defamation League is working with the Zoom platform experts and has published best practices in using Zoom video conferencing software.
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