In Detroit, a suspect previously detained in connection with the fatal stabbing of a local synagogue leader has been released, according to attorney Allison Kriger. The suspect, whose identity has not been disclosed, was set free without any charges being filed in the case. This development follows the tragic death of Samantha Woll, 40, the president of Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue, who was found deceased outside her Detroit home on October 21.
Woll’s death occurred shortly after she returned from a wedding, although it is believed that the fatal attack took place inside her residence. The Detroit Police Department has not provided immediate comments on the latest turn of events in the investigation.
Police Chief James White initially announced the arrest of the suspect on Wednesday. However, White emphasized that the arrest did not signify the end of the investigation into this case. The nature of the crime had initially raised concerns about potential antisemitic motives, particularly in light of the recent Israel–Hamas conflict. However, Chief White has indicated that the attack does not appear to be driven by antisemitism.
Besides her significant role at the synagogue, Woll was known for her political engagement. She had worked for Rep. Elissa Slotkin (R-Mich.) and was involved in the political campaign of Michigan’s state Attorney General Dana Nessel. The community and those who knew Woll continue to mourn her loss as the investigation into her untimely death proceeds.
In a separate incident underscoring the rise in antisemitic acts, a Jewish cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio, was desecrated with hateful graffiti. The Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery on Ridge Road became the target of vandals on the night of November 11, 2023, as several headstones were defaced with red swastikas. This act of vandalism coincides with the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, now in its fifth week.
The Jewish Federation of Cleveland expressed its profound dismay and condemnation of the act on social media, describing it as “absolutely sickening.” The Federation’s posts highlighted the deep-seated hatred towards the Jewish community, noting that such acts of desecration against Jewish elders are a stark reminder of the increasing levels of antisemitism globally.
Carolyn Normandin, the regional director of the Anti-Defamation League in Michigan, reported a significant uptick in antisemitic incidents in the region. Between October 7 and October 21, they recorded 61 incidents, a stark increase from the usual two to three weekly reports. Nationally, the Anti-Defamation League has observed a 388% rise in antisemitic incidents compared to the same period last year.
Most of these incidents, as observed in Michigan and across the country, involve inflammatory rhetoric and calls for violence at rallies, with some even celebrating the harm to civilians or questioning the role of Hamas in the attacks.
Reacting to the vandalism in Ohio, Rep. Shontel Brown, D-Oh., expressed her sadness and outrage on social media. She extended her support to the local Jewish community and emphasized the need to speak out against antisemitism. Brown’s statement underscored that such forms of hate are unacceptable in Northeast Ohio or anywhere else.
The rise in antisemitic incidents, as seen in both the vandalism in Ohio and the broader national context, highlights a troubling trend of increasing hostility and prejudice against the Jewish community in the United States.