Newer South Needs Frank Exoneration

Newer South Needs Frank Exoneration

By Rabbi Steven Lebow | Guest Columnist

The lynching of Leo Frank, or of any man or woman, is not easily put aside. We cannot minimize the lynching or deny it, but ultimately we must get beyond it.

First, it is worth it to note that the lynching happened 100 years ago. It happened in a Georgia that is now long gone.

The lynching of Leo Frank was, in a way, the beginning of the end of that older South. To paraphrase Henry Grady, we are living in what I like to call the Newer South. It is a Georgia that has a completely different landscape from any Georgia that has been before.

Rabbi Steven Lebow
Rabbi Steven Lebow

For the past quarter-century, as part of my belief in the Newer South, I have advocated for an exoneration for Leo Frank. How hard could it be for the Georgia House and Senate to pass a nonbinding resolution saying, “Resolved: In the light of history it is fair to assume that Leo M. Frank was innocent of all charges”?

How hard could that possibly be?

For Leo Frank and for all of us, justice is the debt that the present owes the future. All bona fide historians now agree that Frank was innocent. Clearing Frank’s name should be easy.

The era of anti-Semitism and racism is long departed from Marietta. I’ve lived here 30 years and have never experienced racist remarks or anti-Semitic actions.

If truth be told, the people of the city of Marietta are among the nicest and most decent people I have ever met.

There is a very large tent in the Newer South. Underneath that bigger tent is a very large picnic table. At that picnic table families with the last name of Brumby and Barnes and Glover, Kirby and Kinney and Flournoy happily sit side by side with families who have last names like Olens and Pearlberg, Schuster and Goldstein.

From my perspective, if Atlanta is the crown of the South, then the city of Marietta is its jewel.

In the Newer South we are prepared to struggle with a difficult past to prepare for a better future.

In this South the old battle emblems of the Confederacy have been retired to the museums where they belong. And in Cobb County there is little to no opposition to same-sex marriage.

In the Newer South the time has come to finally acknowledge that Leo Frank was innocent.

If we, like everyone in the city of Marietta, wishes to put aside the painful legacy of the lynching of Leo Frank, then let us acknowledge that it is not possible to make the future good unless we are willing to make the past right.

That is all I have ever asked for. Nothing more is needed.

But nothing less will do.

Steven Lebow is the senior rabbi at Temple Kol Emeth.

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