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February 21, 2013 - Image 20

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2013-02-21

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

metro

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20 February 21 • 2013

JN

aught to hate as a teenager,
Frank Meeink became a neo-
Nazi skinhead at 14 years old.
At 18, he was a neo-Nazi recruiter in
southern Illinois with his own cable
access television show, The Reich.
He did hard time for kidnapping
a rival skinhead member, faced drug
and alcohol addiction after he got out,
but hate turned to redemption because
of the kindness of a Jewish employer
and his revulsion over the 1995
Oklahoma City federal building bomb-
ing that killed 168 people.
Meeink, 37, who
has been speaking
out against hate for
the Anti-Defamation
League for many years,
will bring his story to
the Berman Center for
the Performing Arts at
Frank Meeink
7:30 p.m. Wednesday,
March 6.
Attending an inner-city school in
southeast Philly as one of only a few
white students, Meeink was forced
to defend himself. When he visited a
cousin who was already a skinhead
in Lancaster, Pa., later that summer,
Meeink found camaraderie.
"I had been fighting about my race
all the time, and I saw groups standing
up for kids like me he said. "My par-
ents weren't the best parents. My par-
ents never took the time to say, 'How's
school, Frank? How's life?'
"When I was hanging out with these
skinhead guys, they would always ask
me how it was growing up in Philly
and black people he said. "That really
resonated with me. They were asking
me the questions that I always wanted
my parents to ask me. It really made
me feel good!'
Although he had never met a Jew, he
hated them because he was told they
operated the Federal Reserve and ran
the world. He also was told that whites
were superior to blacks because of DNA.
A few years later, he was in prison.
A good athlete in school, he played
basketball and football with young
blacks and found out he had more
in common with urban black kids
because he was an "urban white kid!'
"The Aryan Nations guys were all
bikers from southern Illinois," he said.
"I couldn't relate much to talking about
handlebars on 1971 Harleys compared

to 1973 Harleys."
Getting a job fresh out of prison
wasn't easy, he said. "When you're try-
ing to get a job with a big swastika on
your neck, "skinhead" written on your
knuckles and an aggravated kidnap-
ping charge on your record, these are
not good people skills!'
A street-smart Jewish guy who ran
an antique business in Philly took a
chance on him.
"He destroyed the stereotypes and
always treated everyone honestly!'
Meeink said. "He took someone's trash
and refinished it, turned a profit and
bought more furniture and made a big
business out of it"

A Lesson In Compassion
Meeink always said "I'm so stupid"
whenever he made a mistake. "It was
ingrained from my parents!' he said.
One day his boss finally said, "Quit
calling yourself stupid. You're one of
the most street-smart people I've ever
met. You can't pay for what's in that
head of yours:'
"I was so grateful to have a person
that showed me such empathy all the
time," Meeink said. "He showed me
compassion, and my beliefs were telling
me that I should want to kill this man,
that Jews are most evil, and here's a guy
that's given me such self-esteem.
"That was the start — the day I
decided to give up being a neo-Nazi
and a skinhead."
Now Meeink is married and the
father of five children, and he speaks
to colleges and civil rights groups. He
coaches for hockey programs, runs a
company that cleans homes for people
who are flipping them, produces and
consults on documentaries, and has
authored his autobiography.
"My message is about not being a
hate-filled, spiteful bully on this Earth.
It's not our job. Our job is to be a bet-
ter person!' he said. "To have empathy
for another person is life-changing!'
According to the FBI Hate Crime
statistics, while the national number of
reported hate crimes fell, those report-
ed in Michigan rose, said Heidi Budaj,
ADL Michigan regional director. "In
addition, when religion was a factor in
a hate crime, 85 percent of the time, it
was anti-Semitic," she said.
The event is open to the public, and
tickets may be purchased online for
$11 at www.theberman.org , at (248)
661-1900 or in person at the box office
at the Berman.



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