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Former neo-Nazi depicted in ‘American History X’ embraces Judaism

Frank Meeink abandoned a criminal lifestyle to eat a kosher diet, study the Torah and pray three times a day.

Frank Meeink. Credit: ADL.
Frank Meeink. Credit: ADL.

The marvels of modern-day DNA testing have revealed another member of the Jewish people. He’s a man who had a swastika tattooed on his neck and whose life inspired a searing American crime drama about violent antisemitism.

Frank Meeink, 48, has dived in head first by embracing devout Jewish practice.

Meeink led a far-right, neo-Nazi group in the 1990s that engaged in such criminal acts as sadistically torturing enemies. Following prison time and then an experience working with a Jewish furniture store owner, Meeink renounced his past bigoted beliefs. His story helped shape the character of Derek Vinyard, the protagonist of “American History X” (1998), played in an Oscar-nominated performance by Edward Norton.

A 23andMe DNA test revealed a reality that would further transform Meeink’s life. He was determined to be 2.4% Ashkenazi Jewish through his mother’s maternal great-great-grandmother. This matrilineal descent meant that by many definitions he, too, was Jewish.

“I found out by a beautiful gift from God that I was Jewish through DNA,” said Meeink.

The discovery has now inspired a man who once regarded Jews as the root of all evil to attend synagogue, go to Torah classes, keep kosher, and pray three times daily using tallit and tefillin.

Meeink said he loved that in Judaism, it says: “‘Love the Lord your God.’ And that you don’t need to force your God on nobody else. I wanna try and build this relationship with God.”

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