Former neo-Nazi who inspired American History X reveals he’s now an observant Jew

Frank Meeink credits Judaism with getting him through the darkest period of his life around five years ago


2PDK59M Frank Meeink, originally from Philadelphia, speaks to students about his former involvement with neo-Nazi hate groups, at Alvernia College in Reading, Pa., Nov. 1, 2005. Meeink, 30, travels the country to speak about his life and the misguided beliefs of hate groups. (AP Photo/Reading Eagle, Susan L. Angstadt)

The former white supremacist and neo-Nazi who inspired Edward Norton’s skinhead character in “American History X” is now an observant Jew after discovering Jewish heritage through DNA testing.

Frank Meeink was a leader of a violent Aryan skinhead gang in the early 1990s that believed in inciting a race war.

Now, at 48, Meeink prays three times a day wearing the tefillin and tallit of observant Jews, goes to Torah study classes three times a week, keeps kosher and attends synagogue.

Meeink was prompted to take a DNA test after a friend commented that he “looked Jewish”.

He told the New York Post: “I just wanted to see if it was true, I wanted to see if it was real.”
He said finding out that he is 2.4 per cent Ashkenazi Jewish on the side of his mother’s maternal great, great-grandmother was “a beautiful gift from God,”

He credits his Jewish faith with helping him through the darkest period of his life, following the death of his 19-year-old son Josh, the breakdown of his marriage, and the loss of his mother to a fentanyl overdose.

While in recovery in Los Angeles, California for alcohol and drug abuse in 2019, he met his sponsor, a Jewish man he nicknamed his “recovery rabbi” who helped him find his faith.

“The thing I loved about Judaism is that it says, ‘Love the Lord your God’, and that you don’t need to force your God on nobody else. I want to try and build this relationship with God,” Meeink said.

He continues to call his “recovery rabbi” every morning at 8am and says Judaism has given him “humbleness, humility” and the desire to stand up for others.

Meeink had a violent and unpleasant upbringing in an Irish-Catholic enclave in South Philadelphia. His mother was a heavy user of drugs and alcohol, and his stepfather was abusive.

He grew up surrounded by black families and felt like an “outcast” at school. At age 13, he was introduced to neo-Nazi beliefs through his cousin, who had a mural of Hitler in his bedroom. The skinhead crew Meeink joined “justified all my fears,” he said.

At 17, after his gang kidnapped a man and nearly killed another, Meeink was arrested. While in prison serving a three-year sentence, he bonded with and befriended black inmates, beginning his journey out of his racist views and former life.

Edward Norton’s character in the 1998 movie American History X, Derek Vinyard, is based on Meeink’s experiences.

Meeink is now hoping to turn the full story of his life into a movie, which he believes would act as a sequel to American History X, and is in allegedly in talks with Oscar-nominated director Sam French.

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