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Death of Detroit Jewish leader, war in Israel has Ann Arbor synagogue on alert

Outside the Beth Israel Synagogue in Ann Arbor.
Beth Israel Synagogue
Outside the Beth Israel Synagogue in Ann Arbor.

The murder of Detroit synagogue president Samantha Woll has sent shockwaves through the Jewish community. The tragedy was felt in Washtenaw County and has raised concerns about security in the midst of the war in Israel.

Woll was found stabbed to death near her home in the Detroit area over the weekend. While Detroit Police said there was no current evidence of it being a hate crime, this has put the Jewish community on alert.

At Ann Arbor’s Beth Israel synagogue, where members of Woll’s family attend, they are mourning her tragic death.

Jerry Sorokin is Beth Israel’s executive director.

“It was a terrible blow, not just to the Woll family, but more generally to the Jewish community of Southeast Michigan, and it hit hard at Beth Israel.”

Sorokin says that incident and unrest stemming from the war in Israel has led to an increase in security at the synagogue.

“It doesn’t affect the ability of people to get in, but it just gives us additional watchful eyes around the property. We don’t want to put anybody into a situation where they feel uncomfortable entering our facility.”

With the rise in antisemitism, the presence of armed security has unfortunately become more and more routine at synagogues, according to Sorokin. He says it creates a difficult balancing act.

“How do we maintain a welcoming atmosphere and an openness to new people while, at the same time, making sure that the security needs of our current membership, our staff, and the well-being of our facility are all managed appropriately?”

Sorokin adds that Beth Israel is working to educate its congregation, the kids in its religious school and the general public about the complex nature of the conflict in Israel.

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Josh Hakala is the general assignment reporter for the WEMU news department.
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