No indication of hate crime in murder of Detroit synagogue president, police say


((JEWISH REVIEW)) — Police in Detroit said Sunday that they had found no indication of a hate crime in their investigation of the murder of Samantha Woll, a prominent and beloved local Jewish leader found stabbed to death outside her home early Saturday.

The police did not offer any additional details about their investigation, which has so far not resulted in an arrest. The police issued the statement just hours after Woll’s family and friends mourned her at a funeral held at her childhood synagogue in the city’s suburbs.

“No evidence has surfaced suggesting that this crime was motivated by antisemitism,” Detroit Police Chief James White said in the statement.

Woll’s murder comes at a time of high alert for U.S. Jews, following Hamas’ deadly Oct. 7 attack on Israel 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, including in the Detroit area, which is home to one of the largest Palestinian communities in the United States.

Some public figures immediately linked Woll’s murder to the conflict. But local Jewish groups urged caution about jumping to conclusions regarding a possible motive for the murder.

The Detroit Jewish federation said on Sunday that it was in touch with multiple law enforcement agencies and municipal offices, and assured local Jews that there were “no specific or credible threats to our community at this time.”

At the funeral, friends and family emphasized that Woll, the board president of Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue, was kind, caring and inclusive.

“We are so fortunate to have had Sam in our lives,” said Stephanie Chang, a Michigan state senator and longtime friend who was with Woll, who was 40, at a wedding the night before her death. “I hope that each of us will remember Sam for the beautiful human being that she was and as someone who loves bridging divides, and as someone who was a promoter of justice, equity and being welcoming to all people.”

Her brother-in-law, Ben Rosen, recalled Woll’s contribution to a “somewhat heated family email discussion” about politics several weeks ago, before war broke out in Israel.

“You ended your beautiful email with the following line: ‘If and where there are disconnects between some of the people who follow Black Lives Matter and the Jewish community, then our communities need to engage with each other more, not less,’” Rosen said. “This is your legacy that we will always remember and carry forward.”

Addressing her sister directly, Monica Woll Rosen revealed that flowers Woll had ordered had been delivered to a friend after her death.

“You so deeply wanted peace for this world. You fought for everyone, regardless of who they were or where they came from. You were the definition of a leader,” Woll Rosen said. “Our world is shattered without you.”