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 television host, travel journalist as well as a passionate artist, educator and writer who has explored 101 countries, 6 continents and sailed on cruise ships for seven years on the high seas and backpacked for three years in Asia. She is the founder of We Said Go Travel which was read in 212 countries in 2018 and named #3 on the top 1000 Travel Blog and the top female travel blogger 3 times in 2019. Find her talking travel at KTLA TV and in her We Said Go Travel videos with over one million views on her YouTube channel. She has hosted Facebook Live for USA Today 10best, is verified on both Twitter and Facebook, has over 150,000 followers across social media and ran fifteen travel competitions publishing over 2500 writers and photographers from 75 countries. She has been a finalist for six Southern California Journalism Awards in the past three years and won an award for her Jewish Journal article. Niver has written for AARP, American Airways, Delta Sky, En Route (Air Canada), Hemispheres (United Airlines), Jewish Journal, Luxury Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Myanmar Times, National Geographic, POPSUGAR, Robb Report, Saturday Evening Post, Scuba Diver Life, Sierra Club, Ski Utah, Smithsonian, Trivago, USA Today 10best, Wharton Magazine and Yahoo. She is writing a book, “Brave Rebel: 50 Scary Challenges Before 50,” about her most recent travels and challenges. Look for her underwater SCUBA diving, in her art studio making ceramics or helping people find their next dream trip.

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