This article is by Cheryl Lipshutz, 2023 Southwest Regional Board Chair and a longtime ADL Board Member.
I went to see the play Parade on Broadway February 21, which was opening night of previews. I was seeing it with my daughter-in-law because it was an important story–the story of Leo Frank, a Jewish man whose false conviction and lynching inspired the work of the ADL (Anti-Defamation League)–and it also stars Ben Platt, a terrific, young Broadway performer. I did not anticipate what transpired.
As the line of ticket holders advanced along the sidewalk towards the theater for security checks, I could see there was something unusual occurring on the street and I could hear people screaming and talking loudly through a megaphone. As I came upon them, I saw a group of about 20 antisemitic protesters holding two banners. One of the banners talked about Leo Frank being a pedophile (a familiar antisemitic trope which was used by the protestors because Frank was falsely accused and convicted of raping and murdering a 13-year-old factory worker named Mary Phagan). The other banner featured derogatory comments about ADL.
The protesters were members of the neo-Nazi group National Socialist Movement, and they stood about 5 to 10 feet away from theatergoers as they harassed us.
There were a couple of police who were there as well, but they allowed the protest to continue. There was no attempt at physical violence. However, witnessing the protest while knowing that Leo Frank was wrongfully convicted based on misinformation, kidnapped from jail and lynched, made me think about the ugly history of antisemitism and the tenacity of hate. Frank was convicted and killed in Marietta, Georgia in the early 1900’s simply because he was Jewish.
These protesters, in the middle of a tide of rising antisemitism in 2023, spewed anti-Jewish hatred at the audience of a play about Leo Frank, and that set me on edge. It caused me to think about how similar Marietta, Georgia in the early 1900’s was to the extreme rise in anti-semitism we are experiencing today.
My experience with neo-Nazis at the preview of Parade brought home the vital importance of my role as Southwest Regional Board Chair of ADL, and of the work ADL does to counter extremism and antisemitism. In my lifetime, there has never been a more crucial time to help ADL fight antisemitism and hate in all of its forms.