Let our people Zoom… Safely

We didn’t think it would happen to us. It wasn’t even on our radar.  At Online Jewish Learning, we’ve worked with thousands of children across the world through our B’nei Mitzvah and Hebrew School at Home programs.  We have been using Zoom for years and never even considered that uninvited people would (or even could) virtually trespass into our online classrooms and cause disruption.  Then came Covid-19, an increased reliance on virtual meetings and classrooms across the world and the risk of being “Zoom bombed”.

Last week two of our teachers were “Zoom bombed” while teaching students. In one of the situations, someone using the pseudonym “hackers United” joined the classroom.  In the second situation, a face came on the screen in a ski mask. Fortunately, in each case both of our teachers had the presence of mind to immediately end the lesson.  

I was really disturbed by these violations of our safe learning spaces and immediately started doing research. At first, I thought maybe it had been a mistake and these people had accidentally stumbled in. As I started digging deeper into the problem to troubleshoot I realized I was wrong. 

News stories and first-hand accounts started popping up about other virtual meetings (both Jewish and secular) experiencing the same sort of disturbances over the past few weeks. Some virtual gatherings on Zoom even experienced pornographic and antisemitic content as part of the “Zoom bomb”. 

We immediately took all the appropriate precautionary measures and trained our teachers in how to handle a potential “zoom bomb”.  As a business we needed to protect our teachers and students and be prepared.  

But as many Jews around the world are forced to pray, celebrate and mourn virtually due to Covid-19, and as we prepare for perhaps what will end up being the most unique Seder experience of our lifetime, we must all be prepared.  We have to be ready to not only protect and strengthen our physical communities during this time, but to protect our virtual ones as well.

“Zoom Seders” or “Zeders” are an amazing and unique opportunity to connect with family, friends, and other communities in special ways.  I’m personally really excited to have people sitting in Boston, California and Canada all participating in the same Seder. Talk about creating community!

That excitement and opportunity though should be coupled with the reality that Zeders may be a welcome target for “zoom bombers” and it’s important that we make sure our Zeders are as secure as possible.  

Here are a couple of tips to help your Zeder go as smoothly and securely as possible:

  1. Set a password for invited guests
  2. Disable autosaving chats
  3. Disable file transfers and screen sharing
  4. Disable remote controls and annotations
  5. Setup a waiting room where people have to be “let in.”
  6. Assign co-hosts
  7. Mute all the participants (you can un-mute them when appropriate)

The ADL has invested a lot of energy in cybersecurity during these increasingly virtual times and you can find more information at https://www.adl.org/blog/how-to-prevent-zoombombing.

Our people have experienced and survived far more challenging and threatening situations than ski-masked hackers invading our virtual spaces.  As we take the time this week during Pesach to reflect on and remember all that we have persevered through as a Jewish people, let us be grateful that we are strong and united more than ever across the world during this crisis. 

Tonight let us say a Shehechiyanu for celebrating Passover in this new and innovative way. Let us continue to engage with one another and be grateful that we have avenues through which we can stay connected during this time. 

Wishing you and your families a safe, happy, and healthy “zoomtastic” Pesach!

 

About the Author
Rabbi Danielle Eskow is the co-founder/CEO of Online Jewish Learning, an online education program which provides one-on-one and small group synchronous classes. A graduate of Brandeis University and The Jewish Theological Seminary, Rabbi Eskow received her Master’s degree in Midrash and Scriptural Interpretation. The goal of Online Jewish Learning is to serve and provide all Jewish individuals, families, and congregations with a meaningful Jewish education from LA to NYC to Okinawa and Qatar. Rabbi Eskow was in the inaugural class of Combined Jewish Philanthropies’ “Chai in the Hub” 18 under 40 most influential Jewish leaders in Boston. She lives in Brookline with her husband and three children.
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