Detroit synagogue leader Samantha Woll’s murder not motivated by antisemitism, police say

Police said a large Israeli flag at the home of the slain synagogue president was left untouched

Andrea Blanco
Monday 23 October 2023 12:49 EDT

Jewish leader Samantha Woll laid to rest

Authorities probing the stabbing death of Detroit synagogue leader Samantha Woll have said there is no evidence suggesting her murder was motivated by antisemitism.

The Detroit Police Department, Michigan Police and the FBI continue investigating the brutal stabbing of Woll, 40, who was found dead outside her home in the Lafayette Park neighbourhood on Saturday morning.

Woll, a former aide to Democratic Rep Elissa Slotkin and campaign staffer for Attorney General Dana Nessel, had led the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue since 2022.

Law enforcement said that police received a call reporting a person lying on the ground unresponsive around 6.30am. When officers arrived at the scene, they followed a trail of blood that led them to Woll’s residence.

Detroit police corporal Dan Donakowski said during an update on Sunday that Woll’s death is being investigated as a homicide but there is no evidence suggesting the murder was a hate crime. Cpl Donakowski said in a statement that investigators had found a large Israeli flag in Woll’s home that was left untouched.

More than 1,000 people attended Woll’s funeral on Sunday, the Detroit Free Press reports. Senator Stephanie Chang and AG Nessell were among the attendees who delivered heartfelt eulogies during the ceremony.

“Sam did more for our community, our state, our world, our lives in her short time here on Earth than most will ever accomplish in 1,000 lifetimes,” Ms Nessel said in her eulogy, according to The New York Times.

Sen Chang also said that Woll had devoted her time to listening to Muslim and Jewish members of her community following the 7 October Hamas attack on Israel. Meanwhile, Woll’s sister Monica Woll Rosen shared with mourners how the slain synagogue president “fought for everyone.”

Detroit police officers work near the scene where Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue president, Samantha Woll, was found dead

Woll was remembered as a beloved community leader who built bridges through her interfaith work. Dawud Walid, president of the Council on American Islamic Relations’s Michigan chapter, called Woll’s death a “tragic loss” and praised her efforts to unite the Jewish and Muslim communities in Detroit.

“We are troubled by the apparent homicide of Samantha Woll, a beloved leader within her faith community in Metro Detroit,” Mr Walid said in a statement. “We also send our sincere condolences to her family and friends and to the Detroit Jewish community as a whole for the tragic loss.”

According to a 2017 article by The Detroit Jewish News, Woll was “instrumental in the founding of the Muslim-Jewish Forum of Detroit,” an alliance that helps build bonds between Jewish and Muslim youth.

“By extending her hand and creating space for connection between Muslims and Jews, she has exemplified the values of healing the world,” the article read.

Samantha Woll, president of the board at the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue poses for a photo in Detroit, Oct. 13, 202

In a statement, Governor Gretchen Whitmer said Woll’s death was heartbreaking.

“She was a source of light, a beacon in her community who worked hard to make Michigan a better place,” the governor said.

There was no evidence of forced entry at Woll’s home and there were no signs that she tried to defend herself, according to NBC. Police Chief James White said that investigators are trying to establish a timeline leading to Woll’s death and asked the public not to jump to conclusions.

“Everything that can be done to bring this matter to closure is being called into service,” Chief White said.

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