Remembering Leo Frank’s Lynching


By Rabbi Josh Knobel, Stephen Wise Temple

Leo Frank, Photo from Wikipedia

For those of us keeping count, today marks the 105th anniversary of Leo Frank’s lynching in Atlanta. A 31-year-old New York Jew turned manager of an Atlanta pencil factory, he had spent two years in prison for the murder of Mary Phagan, a twelve-year old employee of the factory, before 28 men referring to themselves as the “Knights of Mary Phagan”—including Mary’s uncle and a former Georgia governor—abducted Frank from his prison cell and took him to Phagan’s small hometown near Marietta, where they lynched him.

History ultimately exonerated Frank of his crimes, and he received a posthumous pardon in 1986. Despite incriminating evidence against the factory’s watchman and janitor, police remained convinced that Frank, denounced for his identity as a Jew, a Northerner, and an industrialist, was the killer. No one, unfortunately, was ever charged for his lynching.

Leo Frank’s lynching on the morning of August 17, 1915. Photo from Wikipedia

The injustice apparent in Frank’s trial in 1913 and his death in 1915 clearly illustrated that America carried the same potential for antisemitic rhetoric and violence that had characterized European life for centuries. Such a palpable threat galvanized much of the American Jewry, inspiring them to act in concert to protect the interests of the American Jewish community. Organizations such as the nascent Anti-Defamation League committed themselves toward identifying and combatting antisemitic activity, a task that, regrettably, remains more relevant today than in decades past.

As antisemitic propaganda and violence begin to grow in earnest in the United States for the first time in decades, the American Jewish community finds itself more divided than ever before, having been drawn into the sectarian politics that have divided the country. In the wake of Leo Frank’s lynching, the American Jewish community came together to lead America toward greater understanding and acceptance. What will it take for us to do so once again?

By Rabbi Josh Knobel, Stephen Wise Temple

Rabbi Josh Knobel

Lisa Ellen Niver

Lisa Ellen Niver, M.A. Education, is a science teacher and is an award-winning travel expert who has explored 101 countries and six continents. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, she worked on cruise ships for seven years and backpacked for three years in Asia. You can find her talking travel at KTLA TV and in her We Said Go Travel videos with over 1.3 million views on her YouTube channel. As a journalist, Niver has interviewed an Olympic swimmer and numerous bestselling authors and has been invited to both the Oscars and the United Nations. She is the founder of We Said Go Travel which is read in 235 countries and was named #3 on Rise Global’s top 1,000 Travel Blogs. She was named both a Top 10 Travel Influencer and a Top 50 Female Influencer for 2021 by Afluencer and is the Social Media Manager for the Los Angeles Press Club. She has been nominated for the inaugural Forbes 50 over 50/Know Your Value list due out in Summer 2021. She has hosted Facebook Live for USA Today 10best and has more than 150,000 followers across social media. Niver is a judge for the Gracies Awards for the Alliance of Women in Media and has also run 15 travel competitions publishing over 2,500 writers and photographers from 75 countries on We Said Go Travel. For her print and digital stories as well as her television segments, she has been awarded two Southern California Journalism Awards and two National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards. From 2017 to 2021 in the Southern California Journalism Awards and National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards, she has won four times for her broadcast television segments, print and digital articles. Niver won in 2021 as Book Critic and in 2019 for one of her KTLA TV segments NAEJ (National Arts and Entertainment Journalism) award. Niver won an award for her print magazine article for Hemispheres Magazine for United Airlines in the 2020 Southern California Journalism Awards and a 2017 Southern California Journalism Award for her print story for the Jewish Journal. Niver has written for National Geographic, USA Today 10best, TODAY, Teen Vogue, POPSUGAR, Ms. Magazine, Luxury Magazine, Smithsonian, Sierra Club, Saturday Evening Post, AARP, American Airways, Delta Sky, En Route (Air Canada), Hemispheres, Jewish Journal, Myanmar Times, Robb Report, Scuba Diver Life, Ski Utah, Trivago, Undomesticated, Wharton Magazine and Yahoo. She is writing a book, “Brave(ish): It's All About Perspective 50 Adventures Before 50,” about her most recent travels and insights. When she's not SCUBA diving or in her art studio making ceramics, she's helping people find their next dream trip.

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