Friends and family of Samantha Woll, A beloved Detroit synagogue leader found fatally stabbed over the weekend remembered her kindness, generosity and dedication to helping others during a packed funeral Sunday.
“Your soul was beautiful and pure,” said his younger sister, Monica Woll Rosen, standing next to his white casket. “You so deeply wanted peace for this world that you fought for everyone, no matter who they were or where they came from. “You were the definition of a leader.”
Woll Rosen remembered her sister’s love for her family and how she was always quick to help others when they needed it.
“Our world is shattered without you,” said Woll Rosen. “You brought us light.”
Woll’s body was found with multiple stab wounds at her home Saturday morning and was pronounced dead at the scene, the Detroit Police Department said in a news release.
Responding officers had followed “a trail of blood” to his home, where the crime is believed to have occurred, according to the Detroit Police Department.
Police have not identified any suspects in the case and it is still unclear what led to the murder. As investigators continue investigate for a reasonDetroit Police Chief James E. White said Sunday that “no evidence has emerged to suggest that this crime was motivated by anti-Semitism.”
Woll was president of the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue board, served on the ritual committee, worked on the renovation and reopening of the building and spearheaded fundraising, among other responsibilities, said Rabbi Ariana Silverman.
“Sam had an exceptionally special personal relationship with countless people of different religions, races, politics and all the things that normally divide us,” Silverman said. “A lot of people think of her as someone they had a particularly close or important relationship with, and they’re all right.”
One after another, speakers at her funeral remembered Woll’s infectious smile, her generous spirit, her willingness to listen and her constant effort to build bridges between people and fight for social justice causes.
The last text message Woll sent before her murder was a heart to a friend, “just because,” her sister said. After her death, the flowers Woll had sent earlier arrived at another friend’s house on Saturday for his birthday.
“She believed in humanity, which of course is a terrible irony today,” said Rabbi Steven Rubenstein of Congregation Beth Ahm in West Bloomfield, Michigan.
Detroit’s police chief said investigators are working with the FBI to “forensically analyze all information obtained to this point in an effort to determine the timeline that ultimately led to Ms. Woll’s death.”
“People with information that may advance this investigation are being interviewed,” White said.
The Detroit FBI has provided “technical, forensic and intelligence assistance” in the case at the request of the Detroit Police Department, the federal agency said.
“I again ask the community to be patient as our investigators and law enforcement partners continue their work,” the chief added.
Michigan State Police have been assigned to support local police in the case, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced. “Together they will investigate this heinous crime and bring the perpetrator to justice,” she added.
“My heart breaks for her family, her friends, her synagogue and all those who were lucky enough to know her,” Whitmer said. “She was a source of light, a beacon in her community who worked hard to make Michigan a better place.”
The night before her body was discovered, Woll attended a wedding, where Michigan State Senator Stephanie Chang said she last saw her.
Chang said the couple had talked about Woll’s excitement about a new job and how things were going at Woll’s synagogue and in her neighborhood, Lafayette Park. Woll ended up befriending a couple she had just met and were still deep in conversation Friday night when Chang and her daughter said goodbye, the state senator said.
“I am so happy that my last memories of Sam are ones of happiness and love,” Chang said through tears.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, whose campaign Woll had been a part of, also spoke at the service, highlighting Woll’s encouraging, compassionate nature and her powerful ability to connect with others.
“She could charm everyone. She charmed celebrities and detractors alike. Her warmth could persuade even the hardest heart of the loudest interlocutor,” Nessel said. “Sam gave everything of herself but she asked for nothing in return.”
“Samantha Woll may have been the kindest person I have ever met or will ever meet,” he said.
In an obituary, Woll’s loved ones wrote that she loved “all forms of art,” including theater and opera, loved being in nature, had worked with several political campaigns and was also involved with many interfaith organizations.
“She was unwavering in her commitment to living in the moment and always saw the good in everyone she met,” it said. “Samantha will always be remembered for her tireless activism and her passion for making the world a better place. “She was an angel and there really was no one kinder.”
Her sister said Woll loved spending time with her nieces and nephews and often brought them bookmarks and books from around the world.
Woll was also an artist and left behind paintings that now hang in the homes and offices of loved ones, Woll Rosen said.
“Sam, I feel like I’m about to wake up from a horrible nightmare and you’ll be by my side holding me and holding me,” Woll Rosen said, addressing her sister at her funeral. “This is not supposed to happen. I will never understand why he did it. “A light has gone out in Detroit, in our hearts, for our people, for the world.”