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What's behind wave of anti-semitic violence in US? Jewish Rabbi explains one possible theory

Final preparations are made before U.S. President Barack Obama's speech to Israeli students on March 21, 2013 in Jerusalem, Israel. (Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

In the last month alone, at least 27 Jewish Community Centers in cities across the country, spanning 17 states, received calls with bomb threats, forcing them to evacuate their facilities and disrupting their day-to-day lives. Then, earlier this week, New York City subway passengers noticed anti-semitic graffiti scrawled onto the walls and doors of at least one train.

These hateful acts came around the same time that surveillance cameras captured a man posting swastikas and smashing in a window of a downtown Chicago synagogue, according to the Chicago Tribune. So what caused this wave of violence across the country?

TheBlaze spoke Thursday with Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish advocacy organization in Los Angeles, and asked that very question. Cooper's answer wasn't political. In fact, he acknowledged that the violence stems from all ends of the political spectrum, saying that whatever one's political persuasions, those who perpetrate such acts all have one thing in common: hate.

But has anti-semitism really gotten worse? Or is something else possibly behind the recent wave of attacks? Cooper said it's the latter.

The infiltration of the internet and, specifically, social media, are two things that "supercharge" and "reinforce" the hate, Cooper said.

If someone reads about the desecration of a synagogue a couple of states away, they may say, 'you know what? I really hate those Jews. I'm going to do the same nearby,'" Cooper explained of the potential mindset of someone looking to cause harm. "The whole lone wolf mentality that we read about, which actually started here in the states, was co-opted by the Islamists, and now, unfortunately, you have that empowerment to the individual to go out and act on these hateful ideas."

Cooper was referring to the so-called "lone wolf terrorists," those who are in the United States and become radicalized online by terrorists groups such as ISIS. Federal authorities have attributed the terrorist attacks in Boston, San Bernardino and Orlando to "lone wolf" terrorism.

The rabbi pointed out that gone are the days when an individual seeking to launch an attack are required to travel oversees for training. Today, the internet makes it possible to get everything you need to carry out one of these vicious acts from the comfort of their own home.

"Whatever training you need you can pick up online. There are whole libraries in terms of how to deploy as a terrorist, domestic or otherwise, on the internet," Cooper said.

It's not clear who or what is responsible for carrying out any of the recent calls to Jewish Community Centers or anti-semitic acts of vandalism. The FBI, which is investigating at least some of the incidents, has not yet determined if the acts are linked to any one person or group.

Regardless of what law enforcement finds out, though, the threat remains — and it must be handled, Cooper said.

Part of the solution, he suggested, is calling on companies like Facebook and Twitter to be aware of what users are posting.

"They can do a lot to degrade the marketing capabilities of these bad actors," Cooper said, pointing to Facebook's "standards" about what users can and cannot post when it comes to issues such as race, ethnicity or national origin.

Twitter has a similar policy that prohibits users from posting anything that could be perceived as promoting violence based on one's background.

But Cooper suggested the problem cannot be eliminated solely by social media companies monitoring and removing offensive posts.

"We even have these robotics where you have ads placed automatically on the bottom of communications," Cooper said.

He pointed out that the more people who see ads promoting hate, the more money those responsible for the ads will receive.

"So in some ways we're even indirectly funding some of these individuals," Cooper added.

As for actions the government could take? Cooper said it would help if the State Department would first define what anti-semitism even is.

The State Department's website broadly defines anti-semitism as "discrimination against or hatred toward Jews." But Cooper argued the government needs to be more specific as to what exactly constitutes a hate crime, especially in the age of social media where it's often difficult to identify who is responsible for questionable online posts.

"Beyond that, that's all we need [from the government]," Cooper said. "Hate is not going to be solved by a law."

"And I'm not sure that there are numerically or percentage-wise more bigots, more racists, more haters in America, but in a sense the numbers don't mean that much anymore because you can use social media to make sure you're noticed and to get a sense of empowerment as there are other people around the corner and around the nation that identify the same way," Cooper explained.

The rabbi continued by making the case that everyone — not just Jews — should be concerned about the recent wave of anti-Semitic acts.

"If people can't go to a house of worship in L.A. or Montana, then everyone's religious freedom is going to be on the line," Cooper said.

And for an issue as significant as religious freedom, the foundation upon which the U.S. was founded, it's going to take all hands on deck.

"We're going to need a coalition of companies, communities, parents, kids and a little push from the government," Cooper said.

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