Sam Woll was an endlessly positive, brilliant, creative, supportive, beautiful friend with a big heart and wonderful smile. We went to undergrad together at UMich and she helped on every single one of my campaigns. We knocked on a ton of doors together and marched in parades. She was amazing at building a team. She stepped in to help with constituent services in 2017 when I needed help. She recently joined the board of the Mary Turner Center for Advocacy. She led the incredible renovation of the Downtown Synagogue as board president and was so proud of the entire team that made it happen.
After 10/7, I reached out to her to see how things were going for her and the synagogue. She took the time to send me information about humanitarian groups needing help when I asked.
She was passionate about social justice, Detroit, her faith, and bringing people together.
Last night, we talked about how excited she was for a new job opportunity and that things in Lafayette Park – my old neighborhood and her current one – were going well. We were so happy to both be there for a good friend's beautiful wedding. She was so kind, as she always is, to my daughter, who I took as my wedding date. Sam instantly made friends, of course, with the people sitting next to us at our table.
Sam is already missed and the brutality of her death is beyond words. I want to let you know that I have been in contact with multiple law enforcement agencies who have been on the scene and know that they are all hands on deck to do a full, thorough investigation.
Detroit, Michigan, and the world were so lucky to have her light shine for the 40 years we had her. To all those who had the great fortune of being her friend – I am sending you my love, condolences and wishes for peace and strength. I've been in contact throughout the day with Sam's family and am holding them close in my heart.❤
Sam Woll z’l first came to the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue for Simchat Torah in 2012 when I started as synagogue director. We experienced our IADS “firsts” together for many years. She was not just a pillar; she tirelessly built community. She was a spiritual architect of IADS. How lucky I was to call her a friend, a partner in building community. A testament to what Jewish Detroit could ultimately become.
Sam exuded ruach. She embodied tikkun olam. She was a humble representation of l’dor v’dor. She was a mensch. She was fierce. Kind. Generous, to a fault.
Sam was community. Community followed wherever she went.
She was stolen from us. Violently. But I know in my heart of hearts, she would want this terror and tragedy to simply bring us closer together, closer to love, and closer to peace.
She is forever in my heart. Her light, her imprint on the world will never disappear. Her life, cut too short, was a life well lived.
I love you Sam. I will treasure every single moment and laugh and hug and accomplishment and smile and tear we ever shared.
Yehi zikhra baruch.
I’m deeply saddened by the passing of my dear friend Sam Woll. She was one of the most sincere people I knew in Detroit. We met years ago through the Muslim-Jewish Forum of Detroit. Last summer I began seeing Sam on the campaign trail due to a new documentary I’m directing about Michigan politics as she was working on AG Dana Nessel’s re-election run.
Sam was incredibly patient and kind to our crew despite us making several request to film on a very demanding campaign, often at the last minute. We run into each other periodically since we run in similar circles. I last saw her at the Detroit Homecoming conference a few weeks ago at the new Hillberry Gateway Theater on Wayne State’s campus. We were excited to see each other after a few months and catching up as good friends do.
We talked about reviving our Muslim-Jewish interfaith work, which was so important to both of us. With her role at the downtown synagogue, she proposed that we plan more Muslim-Jewish events especially around the coming High Holidays and Ramadan next year.
I will cherish this last conversation with Sam because it exemplifies her enthusiastic spirit for organizing and bringing our communities together. She was truly a bridge builder and a voice for peace. I shocked right now and still can’t believe the news of her passing. Rest in peace Sam, you will be sorely missed.
Dear friends: We add our voices to the chorus of people and organizations honoring Sam Woll and working to amplify her extraordinary impact on our community, and the values of love, justice, and bridge building that she brought to all the people and organizations fortunate to have shared time with her.
Our own team is deeply impacted by Sam’s leadership and values. I was so fortunate to meet Sam Woll as a freshman at the University of Michigan. Sam was one of the first people I met actively integrating Jewish culture and community with social justice work – suggesting that justice work could be richer, more nourishing and sustainable when integrated with cultural identity and ritual. I feel deeply grateful to have then reconnected with Sam in Detroit, through our work together at the Downtown Synagogue – facilitating the strategic planning process and focusing on the organization's goals around ritual and justice.
I have learned so much from Sam and have always admired her passion, her intelligence, her warmth, and her ability to build the bridges so badly needed in our world. My time working with and learning from Sam informs Adamah Detroit’s approach to cultivating relationships, building community, and working in deep partnership with a rich diversity of Jewish organizations. Her memory is an extraordinary blessing and will continue to inform our work for years to come.
Earlier this week, our team gathered for our weekly meeting at the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue, our new home base. Even with the news vans sitting outside of the building, we felt some comfort from being there together, working to continue just a small part of Sam's enduring legacy: Cultivating community, building bridges, loving Detroit, understanding that Judaism and Jewish community is a powerful way to engage others in the work of “Tikkun Olam”, repairing the world.
Jackie Heller Issner
Hysterical, numb, outraged, grief-stricken, scared, exhausted.
Sam Woll was a force like no other - a magnificent light in our world who inspired me since our days in Koach together in BBYO.
I’m desperately searching for my old pictures of her, as if that will provide comfort. I was able to find the “Koach Kibbles n Bits” newsletters that I created as one of my roles in our chapter. Here are some of Sam’s “favorites” that were true when she was a young teen:
Movie: Truman Show, Good Will Hunting, Armageddon, Troop Beverly Hills
Lucky number: 17
80’s song: Tainted Love
When I lived in Lansing working for the House Dems, Sam Woll was in Lansing working for Elissa Slotkin. We lived in the same apartment building. It was during the covid lockdown, the time when we really weren’t supposed to go out or gather with people.
But Sam and I would meet up and go on walks together along the Lansing River Trail. We talked about politics, about Judaism, about liberalism, antisemitism, and the intersections between all those issues. My family was in Bloomfield, and I didn’t drive home a lot, so Sam was the only person I really saw for several months during Covid, and I cherished her company.
I remember she had this expansive beautiful mahogany library in her apartment and she would lend me books whenever I was bored and needed something to read. Some of those books I never gave back. But Sam wouldn’t have minded. I will cherish those books forever. Lord please wake us up from this nightmare.
Sam Woll was actually the best of all of us. I first met her as a teenager, and our paths constantly crossed, from u of m to politics and then … back to u of m. I think I have the most mutual friends of anyone with Sam. She was a tzaddik.
Her optimism was boundless, she was one of those extremely rare people where nobody could say anything bad about her. How someone can work in politics with many friends and no enemies is astounding. Sam pulled it off, nearly effortlessly. It’s who she was.
It’s not fair to any of us.
The Detroit community has lost a leading light.
Our Jewish community has lost someone that is irreplaceable.
Doug and Margo and Monica have lost something you cannot put into words.
Sam deserved to grow old, to see the fruits of her work, to keep her eyes and smile focused on the most important things.
Now we are left with the unimaginable.
I can’t believe she is gone.
Where were we just the other day when I asked if you remember when I asked you out on a date. It must have been more than a decade ago. We laughed. I admired and loved you so much and if we actually romantically dated women, I would choose you every time.
It is surreal you are gone.
Last night my mind instantly went to a line from Shadows by Alison Lewis, “I am trying to get used to this heartache, I ain’t used to this world without you, I am trying to get used to my heart being broken in two…”
My mind is an endless wheel of memories of you and of us. Especially you at the Grand Re-Opening of Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue in that beautiful cobalt blue dress with the intricate delicate detail on the top layer.
I could recognize your voice instantly. I loved being next to you at services. I will never forget how you hugged me a week ago on Shabbat morning after a week of wrestling with the horror of the terror attack on Israel.
You had this way of speaking not just through words but through expressions and a language of sisterhood with those close to you. You were so brilliant and talented and such a huge part of the soul and spirit of the Downtown Synagogue and Detroit. I remember when your sister and brother-in-law joined us for a Shabbat morning service when we were still at Christ Church and whoever was supposed to chant Torah, or maybe it was Haftarah, wasn’t there for some reason. You and Monica were able to just split up the portion between the two of you. This is something few can take on even with months of preparation.
I remember when we rallied to get to the Downtown Synagogue for a walk through so I could write the cover story on the then upcoming re-opening. And it was you who had the idea to cross the street first after we walked though to take a photo from the outside. And that became the cover photo. And then we grabbed dinner at Seva and I ended up staying over because it was raining and I was exhausted. You worked into the night on the phone processing everything on your plate, actually and by choice, for everything to come together for the big day.
Sam, I would give anything to have decades I was certain we had to together enjoy all you have built for our community and our city. I love you forever and ever.