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 an award-winning travel expert who has explored 101 countries and six continents. She sailed the seven seas by cruise ship for seven years and backpacked for three years in Asia. Find her talking travel at KTLA TV and in her We Said Go Travel videos with over one and a quarter million views (1,250,000) on her YouTube channel. She is the founder of We Said Go Travel which is read in 235 countries, named #3 on the top 1000 Travel Blogs and the top female travel blogger 3 times in 2019. She has hosted Facebook Live for USA Today 10best, is verified on Twitter and has over 160,000 followers across social media. Niver is a judge for the Gracies Awards for the Alliance of Women in Media and also ran fifteen travel competitions publishing over 2500 writers and photographers from 75 countries on her own site, We Said Go Travel. From 2017 to 2020 in the Southern California Journalism Awards and National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards, she has won three times and been a finalist fourteen times for her broadcast television segments, print and digital articles. Niver won an award for her print magazine article for Hemispheres Magazine for United Airlines in the 2020 Southern California Journalism Awards. She was also a finalist for four other categories including online journalist of the year, digital story for activism journalism with Ms. Magazine, educational reporting for Wharton Magazine and a broadcast lifestyle feature for KTLA TV in Los Angeles.    Niver won a 2019 NAEJ (National Arts and Entertainment Journalism) award for one of her KTLA TV segments and was a finalist for articles published in both Ms. Magazine and Wharton Magazine. In 2018,  she was a finalist for stories in Smithsonian, PopSugar Fitness and the Saturday Evening Post. Niver won a 2017 Southern California Journalism Award for her print story for the Jewish Journal and was a finalist for travel reporting. 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, TODAY, 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 insights. Look for her underwater SCUBA diving, in her art studio making ceramics or helping people find their next dream trip.

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