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Samantha Woll, Detroit synagogue president, found stabbed to death outside her home

(JTA) — Samantha Woll, a Democratic activist and prominent Jewish lay leader in Detroit, was stabbed to death outside her home.

Police found Woll, 40, at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday in the city’s Lafayette Park neighborhood, local media said. She had been stabbed multiple times and was unresponsive. A trail of blood led to her home, which police believe may be the scene of the crime, the Detroit Free Press reported. No motive was known.

Woll’s murder comes at a time of high alert for U.S. Jews, following Hamas’ deadly attack on Israel Oct. 7 and widespread protests against Israel’s ensuing war in Gaza. A public call by a former Hamas leader for global protests against Jews caused some Jewish institutions to close or fortify themselves last week, including in the Detroit area, which is home to one of the largest Palestinian communities in the United States.

Local authorities offered no indication of a connection between current events and Woll’s murder, and Jewish leaders cautioned against jumping to conclusions. “As we mourn her tragic passing, we urge the community to refrain from speculation and allow law enforcement to gather facts,” the Anti-Defamation League’s Michigan office said in a statement on X.

“There are no known threats to the community at this time,” the Jewish Federation of Detroit said in an alert to the community. “No evidence has been shared to indicate this was a targeted act motivated by antisemitism.”

Still, some prominent public figures drew connections between Woll’s murder and the current crisis. American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, who is Jewish, linked Woll’s death to the reportedly anti-Muslim murder last week of a 6-year-old Palestinian-American boy in Chicago. Eric Ward, executive vice president of Race Forward, a racial justice advocacy group, wrote on X, “We who are responsible for irresponsible rhetoric and tone setting aren’t the ones burying our dead. Please, please, please. Be serious in your leadership and know your words can be the accessory to murder here and abroad.”

Woll was the president of the non-denominational Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue, one of  the only Jewish congregations left in the city of Detroit. Since last year, she has led an ambitious expansion of the synagogue which aimed to make it a central part of the renewal of the city’s Jewish community.

“We are shocked and saddened to learn of the unexpected death of Samantha Woll, our Board President,” the synagogue said in an alert it sent its congregants. “At this point we do not have more information, but will share more when it becomes available.”

In 2017, the Detroit Jewish News listed Woll as one of its 36 Jews to watch under the age of 36. In particular, it noted her role in cofounding the Muslim-Jewish Forum of Detroit. “By extending her hand and creating space for connection between Muslims and Jews, she has exemplified the values of healing the world,” it said.

She was also politically active, having previously worked for U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, the Jewish Democrat now running for Senate, and last year on the reelection campaign of Dana Nessel, Michigan’s Jewish attorney general.

Nessel, Slotkin and other Michigan political figures paid tribute to Woll on social media. Slotkin, writing on X, formerly known as Twitter, recalled a woman as dedicated to her politics as she was to her faith. Woll was Slotkin’s deputy district director from 2019 to 2021.

“Separately, in politics & in the Jewish community, she dedicated her short life to building understanding across faiths, bringing light in the face of darkness,” she said.

Noah Arbit, a state legislator who was her friend, wrote on Facebook that Woll “believed in the city and the people of Detroit, and her deep commitment to Judaism and the Jewish people reflected in all of her work.”

Andy Levin, the former Democratic congressman, met Woll in 2016 when he helped found Detroit Jews for Justice. The group launched that fall with a retreat at a campground in western Michigan. There was an exercise where participants paired off for “one on ones”, where they exchanged insights. Levin was paired with Woll.

“She was so full of idealism, and passion for justice, and so after that, we always stayed close,” he said. “I can’t process losing Sam Woll at the age of 40. That’s not what’s supposed to happen. I can’t believe I won’t see her. I cannot believe I won’t see her when I go to a Detroit Jews for Justice event or go to the Downtown Synagogue or go to the Eastern Market.”

Rashida Tlaib, the Detroit-area Democratic congresswoman, who is Palestinian-American, wrote on Facebook, “My friend, and a member of our organizing community, Sam Woll, was murdered. I have no words. She always had a sweet smile to offer and the warmest eyes to greet you. Our community is devastated and we are shocked. Please keep her family and our community in your prayers.”

Throughout her adult life, Woll was active in the Jewish community, including at the University of Michigan’s Hillel and as a co-chairwoman of the American Jewish Committee’s ACCESS Detroit Young Leadership Program. She was also on the board of the Jewish Historical Society of Michigan.

Halie Soifer, the CEO of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, and a Michigander, had been aware of Woll as a rising star, and saw Woll’s skills as a leader on a JDCA lobbying day in June. The Michigan JDCA faction chose Woll to help lead discussions with the state’s lawmakers on abortion access, threats to democracy, antisemitism and Israel.

“She was chosen to speak and lead a portion of the meeting because she was such a gifted leader and advocate and she spoke with passion and deep commitment to these issues, she tied in personal stories” Soifer recalled in an interview. “This is devastating.”

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan recalled dedicating the rebuilt Downtown Synagogue, a $6 million project, with Woll in August.

“Just weeks ago, I shared a day of joy with Sam at the dedication of the newly renovated Downtown Synagogue,” he said in a statement. “It was a project she successfully led with great pride and enthusiasm.”

The synagogue, founded in 1921, was one of only two free standing Jewish place of worship remaining in the city, along with a Chabad center. Woll sought to make the synagogue a locus of a Jewish revival as the children and grandchildren of Jews who decades ago moved to the suburbs are returning as the city undergoes a renewal.

At the groundbreaking a year earlier, Woll likened the synagogue’s renewal to ancient works of the Jewish people.

“In the coming together to build and renovate a physical space, this has also been a very spiritual act, in a way similar to building the Temple in Biblical times,” she said.

Woll is survived by her parents, Margo and Douglas Woll, and her sister, Monica.


The post Samantha Woll, Detroit synagogue president, found stabbed to death outside her home appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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UN Committee Says Not Enough Evidence to Declare a Famine in Gaza

Egyptian trucks carrying humanitarian aid make their way to the Gaza Strip, amid the ongoing conflict in Gaza between Israel and Hamas, at the Kerem Shalom crossing in southern Israel, May 30, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Amir Cohen

The United Nations Famine Review Committee (FRC), a panel of experts in international food security and nutrition, has cast doubt on the notion that the northern Gaza Strip is suffering through a famine.

In a report released earlier this month, the committee responded to a claim by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) — a US-created provider of warning and analysis on food insecurity — that a famine was likely underway in northern Gaza. FEWS NET said that northern Gaza began experiencing famine in April and projected that the embattled enclave would endure famine until at least July 31.

The FRC rejected the assertion that northern Gaza is experiencing famine, citing the “uncertainty and lack of convergence of the supporting evidence employed in the analysis.” The panel carries out evaluations of humanitarian conditions on behalf of the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), an international famine monitoring initiative. 

The FRC added that there is not sufficient evidence to confirm the existence of a famine within northern Gaza and called for more humanitarian access into the warzone, providing experts an opportunity to give an accurate assessment of the conditions. 

“The very fact that we are unable to endorse (or not) FEWS NET’s analysis is driven by the lack of essential up-to-date data on human well-being in northern Gaza, and Gaza at large,” the report stated. “Thus, the FRC strongly requests all parties to enable humanitarian access in general, and specifically to provide a window of opportunity to conduct field surveys in northern Gaza to have more solid evidence of the food consumption, nutrition, and mortality situation.”

However, the panel warned that Gaza is still enduring “extreme human suffering” and called for the “complete, safe, unhindered, and sustained” transport of aid into the enclave.

The report represents a course-reversal for the FRC, which claimed that Gaza likely surpassed the “famine thresholds for acute malnutrition” in March. The FRC now contends that civilians in Gaza are experiencing improved humanitarian conditions as a result of increased aid flowing into the war-torn enclave.   

“Since the FRC review conducted in March 2024, there seems to have been a significant increase in the number of food trucks entering northern Gaza,” the report read.

“The FEWS NET analysis acknowledges that humanitarian assistance in the area has increased significantly, finding that caloric availability from humanitarian assistance increased from 9 percent in February to 34 percent  to 36 percent in March and 59 percent to 63 percent in April. The opening of alternative routes to the Rafah and Kerem Shalom crossings, the authorization of commercial truck entry, as well as airdrops, allowed for an increase of food availability,” the report continued.

Several aid agencies, media outlets, and politicians, as well as pro-Palestinian activists, have repeatedly accused Israel of inflicting famine on Palestinians since beginning its military operations in Gaza following Hamas’ Oct. 7 slaughter of over 1,200 people throughout southern Israel. Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, accused Israel of using starvation as a “weapon of war.”

Despite these allegations, data produced by the United Nations showed that Israel allowed more than 100 food trucks to enter Gaza per day in March, an increase from the daily average of 70 trucks before the war. Moreover, many trucks transporting aid into Gaza have been hijacked and seized by Hamas terrorists, increasing the difficulty of distributing food to civilians.

The post UN Committee Says Not Enough Evidence to Declare a Famine in Gaza first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Hundreds rallied outside Toronto school board offices to protest a racism report that doesn’t mention antisemitism

Hundreds of people filled the lawn in front of the Toronto District School Board (TSDB) to oppose a proposed anti-discrimination policy being voted on by trustees that would include recognizing anti-Palestinian racism—while failing to acknowledge rising antisemitism in schools. The report, entitled Combating Hate and Racism: Student Learning Strategy, was received without any amendments by […]

The post Hundreds rallied outside Toronto school board offices to protest a racism report that doesn’t mention antisemitism appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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French President Denounces ‘Scourge of Antisemitism’ After 12-Year-Old Jewish Girl Raped

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a press conference in Paris, France, June 12, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday denounced the “scourge of antisemitism” and called on schools to hold discussions on racism and hatred of Jews after three boys were charged with raping a 12-year-old Jewish girl in a Paris suburb.

The young girl told police that she was approached by three boys who raped and beat her in the northwestern Paris suburb of Courbevoie on Saturday in an incident that French authorities have described as a hate crime. According to French media, the assailants called the victim a “dirty Jew” and uttered other antisemitic remarks during the brutal gang-rape.

A police source told AFP that one of the boys asked the young girl questions about “her Jewish religion” and Israel, citing the child’s statement to investigators.

The boys — two aged 13 and one 12 — were arrested on Monday and indicted on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Macron’s office said the president asked French Education Minister Nicole Belloubet “to organize a discussion in all schools on the fight against antisemitism and racism, to prevent hate speech with serious consequences from infiltrating schools.”

The rape of the unnamed 12-year-old girl has caused outrage throughout France and among the Jewish community.

Elie Korchia, president of France’s Central Israelite Consistory, told BFM TV that the girl was raped “because she is Jewish,” adding, “We have never seen antisemitism that extends so far in all areas of life.”

Courbevoie Mayor Jacques Kossowski echoed that sentiment in a statement released on X/Twitter, saying, “The rape was carried out with antisemitic intent.”

Eric Ciotti, leader of Les Républicains, also condemned the “rise of antisemitism” in France, which he argued was “fueled by the alliance of the far left.” He added that “we must act as a bulwark” against antisemitism.

Marine Le Pen, leader of the right-wing National Rally party, decried the rape on social media. She noted “the explosion of antisemitic acts” in France since Oct. 7.

The recent gang-rape came amid a record surge of antisemitism in France in the wake of Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel. Antisemitic outrages rose by over 1,000 percent in the final three months of 2023 compared with the previous year, with over 1,200 incidents reported — greater than the total number of incidents in France for the previous three years combined.

In April, a Jewish woman was beaten and raped in a suburb of Paris as “vengeance for Palestine.”

The post French President Denounces ‘Scourge of Antisemitism’ After 12-Year-Old Jewish Girl Raped first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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