On December 15, 2020, a cybersecurity attack transpired at North Shore Hebrew Academy High School in Great Neck, New York. Hackers took control of the school’s website and portrayed anti-Semitic pictures and slurs. The hackers also stole the school’s teachers’ and students’ personal information, including home addresses and credit-card information. They circulated these personal details in emails to parents and students that concluded with slurs such as “F*** ISRAEL” and “We Are Everywhere.”
The school’s website had its online logo changed to a swastika and its name altered to “North Shore Hebrew Concentration Camp.” The IP address of the website was then modified to “Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp.” There were also clips and images of SS guards marching as well as Adolf Hitler. Moreover, the website stated that North Shore believes “in executing our Jews, not merely deporting them… We don’t want our Jews to continue being rats…finally erasing them from this Earth is much preferred.”
The anti-Semitic sentiment and Holocaust references illustrated on the website are exceedingly frightening. It is troublesome to believe that people around us wish to bring pro-Holocaust ideas back into the modern world. Although Jews agree that the Holocaust was an unthinkable tragedy from our past, we are now reminded that people still support Adolf Hitler’s beliefs today. This unfavorable reality is purely heartbreaking.
One student, Skyler Askari, explained to Jewish News Syndicate that the cybersecurity attack transpired after classes had ended that day. It forced North Shore to suspend the planned parent-teacher conferences that night. He explained an alarming email describing a one-way ticket for a “field trip” to Auschwitz. The so-called trip to Poland was planned for “January 1945” and instructed its attendees to “walk into an SS office and declare themselves as Jews.” Askari said, “I was really confused. I thought it was part of a program.” He further emphasized that his fellow peers were shaken up by the emails and hacking. Many students claimed, “I’m not going to school tomorrow. I don’t care if classes are resumed.”
Jessica Askari, Skyler’s mother, said that parents were terrified and locked their houses securely out of pure fear. Parents contemplated if their children should even attend North Shore for the rest of the year.
The high school emailed faculty and parents that the authorities were notified when the attack occurred. The email outlined, “We will continue to work together with law enforcement to ensure the safety and security of our parents, students, and faculty.” Currently, North Shore’s website and email system are suspended. They are offering emotional counseling to their traumatized students.
It is absurd that Yeshiva students in a country that promises religious freedom are now afraid of attending school. Parents are evidently on edge, emphasizing the extent of the distressing incident. The unfortunate reality of the circumstance is that it is painfully similar to the months leading up to the Holocaust. Preceding the mass genocide, children were nervous to go to school or to be out in public. The correlation between that time period and the present highlights the alarming idea that history always repeats itself.
As Jews, we are well aware that there has perpetually been opposition against us and our faith in every generation. Hence, it is no surprise that there is developing bigotry against Jews in modern times. The growth of anti-Semitism in America has exponentially expanded. The Anti-Defamation League, or ADL, has recorded 2,107 anti-Semitic attacks in 2019, a 12 percent expansion from those counted in 2018. 2020 was not any different, collecting thousands of hate crimes year-round, involving attacks on various college campuses and synagogues. The cybersecurity attack on North Shore is yet another prominent example of the growing anti-Semitism in recent times.
We must remain united in condemning the bigotry presented right before our eyes. We must denounce hate and protect our Jewish brothers and sisters. The North Shore incident serves as a reminder to never permit fear and hostility to interfere with Jewish lives. To eradicate anti-Semitism, we need global efforts and the unity of the Jewish nation.
Even the smallest of efforts can defend Jews from the rising hate. For high schoolers, joining a club pertaining to current events can boost students’ awareness of the social climate around them. Discussing and analyzing recent anti-Semitic attacks with family and friends is a considerable option. It is also critical to educate oneself about anti-Semitism so if one wishes to chime into a situation, they’ll be prepared to debate. Really, the change begins with you.