Judah Samet was four minutes late to services.
Judah Samet, a survivor of the Holocaust, escaped death once again when he was late to visit his worship place, Pittsburgh's Tree of Life Synagogue. He pulled his car to the synagogue's parking lot at 9:49 in the morning, a four minutes after the scheduled start of the service. As soon as he stopped his vehicle, a police officer advised him to reverse the car as the synagogue was an active shooting spot.
The shooter was Robert Bowers, a virulent anti-Semite. He slaughtered 11 worshipers and wounded a number of other people in the synagogue. He now faces multiple homicide charges, along with ethnic intimidation and aggravated assault. Charges of a federal hate crime were also stacked against him.
Samet said the reason he was late for worship was that he had earlier conversed with his residential housekeeper. In his interview with The Washington Post, he said he suffered flashbacks to Holocaust times when anti-Semitism hit home at his synagogue. He told the interviewer that hatred towards Jews and violent incidents like this never stops.
Samet has seen it all. The Nazis forced his family to board a train to Auschwitz in Nazi-conquered Poland when he was six years old. His family is from Debrecen, Hungary. Slovak resistance fighters blew up the train, and they were sent to Austria where his parents slaved in a lumberyard owned and managed by a local Nazi. The family was then moved to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany for 10 months.
The conditions at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp were so bad that approximately 50,000 prisoners died. Anne Frank was among them. Just before the British liberated the camp in 1945, the Samet family was sent by train to another concentration camp. The train was captured by U.S. troops before it could reach its destination. The family’s joy could not be sustained. However, his father died of typhoid only a week after the family became free again.
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The remaining Samet family then went to France and relocated to Israel where Judah finished school and then served in the Israeli army. He later moved to the United States and finally settled in Pittsburgh.
When it came to the Tree of Life shooting, Samet knew every victim of the attacker. He was a prominent member of Tree of Life and has been the selected Torah chanter for 40 years. He led morning services for many years.