Watch CBSN Live

What's behind the recent rash of anti-Semitic attacks?

Police are investigating a number of recent hate crimes against houses of worship across the nation. On Wednesday, a Hasidic man was assaulted in Brooklyn, the latest in a string of anti-Semitic violence. There were more than 1,300 anti-Semitic incidents last year, according to the Anti-Defamation League. That includes Saturday's stabbing at a rabbi's home in Monsey, New York, where five people were wounded. The next day, a gunman killed two churchgoers in White Settlement, Texas.

"I grew up in a time when we thought anti-Semitism might be dead. And unfortunately it just was kind of undercover," the leader of the Central Synagogue in New York, Rabbi Angela Warnick Buchdahl, said on "CBS This Morning." She said she thinks one factor that may have contributed to the recent rash of anti-Semitic attacks was the amount of time that's passed since the Holocaust.

"We're now about 70-plus years away from the Holocaust and the horrors of that genocide, which in a sense, I think, inoculated the Jewish community from anti-Semitism," Buchdahl said. "It was really not OK to express those kinds of views. And I think it's not a coincidence that we are now at a time when any eyewitnesses to that horrible war are basically dying out. And I think that the timing is such that I think that people now think of the Holocaust as ancient history."

Professor Ibram Kendi, founding director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University and a CBS News contributor, said he thinks hate in America is both lingering from our past and, in some ways, getting worse because of desperation.

"You have many Americans who are trying to figure out why they're struggling," Kendi said. "And then you have other people telling them 'It's because those other people, they're, sort of, coming after you.' And so, in many ways, people are attacking back because they think that's the source of their pain when, in fact, there's another source presumably to this."

Buchdahl said the current political climate doesn't help matters much either.

"I think that we're clearly in a political time where there's greater polarization and a greater tolerance for intolerance all around," Buchdahl said.

But she said she's optimistic people will fight back against anti-Semitism.

"I can't believe that we are going to continue down this hole," Buchdahl said. "And I think what makes me feel optimistic is I've seen the response, both of political leaders, religious leaders and also just good people of America."

Kendi said it's important for people to look inside themselves after these attacks.

"I think each and every individual should look in the mirror and ask themselves, 'Do I harbor any of these forms of bigotry? Am I believing any of these ideas about Jewish people or about any racial group of people or ethnic group of people?' And then for you to be a person who's trying to shed yourself of those ideas because you see how it can harm other people," Kendi said.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.