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  • Writer's pictureDanielle Uehara

Weekly News Blast | Oct 15 - 22

Hurricane Norma storms through Mexico, setting the country on high alert (Hurricane Norma, Wikimedia Commons)

Synagogue President Murdered Outside Her Detroit Home

Early on October 21, prominent Jewish activist Samantha Woll was found stabbed to death outside her home in Lafayette Park, Detroit. According to reports, police found her body after responding to reports of someone “lying on the ground unresponsive.” Samantha Woll—who was the president of Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue (the only freestanding synagogue in downtown Detroit), the co-chair of the American Jewish Committee’s ACCESS Detroit Young Leadership Program, and a board member of the Jewish Historical Society of Michigan—was a prominent figure in Michigan politics.

Her funeral was held on October 22 at Hebrew Memorial Chapel, with hundreds in attendance. Heralded as a Jewish leader and Democrat activist, her death caused uproar in several Jewish, Muslim, and Democrat circles. Two months ago, Woll had helped lead the fundraising campaign and “grand re-opening” of the Agree synagogue. However, she was also involved in several interfaith organizations and was a key figure in the founding of the Muslim-Jewish Forum of Detroit, which has the goal of building positive relationships between the two communities. Rabbi Ariana Silverman of the Agree synagogue said, “Because of her passion and joy and love and wisdom and willingness to listen, Sam had a uniquely special personal relationship with countless people across lines of faith and race and politics and all of the things that usually divide us.”

Both the FBI and local police are currently looking into the murder. Reports have not stated whether a suspect has been identified, but investigators have begun interviewing individuals with information that could aid in the case. Detroit Police Chief James E. White has asked the public not to attempt to draw any hasty conclusions, as “no evidence has surfaced suggesting that this crime was motivated by antisemitism.” He concluded that more information would come on Monday.

Canadian St. Lawrence Seaway Workers on Strike

On October 22, workers at the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation (SLSMC) went on strike after failing to reach an acceptable wage agreement. Negotiations began in June 2023 with the help of a local mediator, but by October, workers were growing impatient. On October 12, the Unifor general trade union voted overwhelmingly to strike on October 21 if a deal was not reached.

On Wednesday, a 72-hour strike notice period was given. This allowed vessels to safely clear the system. “There are no vessels waiting to exit the system, but there are over 100 vessels outside the system, which are impacted by the situation,” a statement from SLSMC explained. As it connects to the Great Lakes to the St. Lawrence River, the strike on the river has disrupted cargo movements to several Canadian provinces. “This labor action would impact grain movements during a period when the world is in dire need of this essential commodity, even as supply has been affected by the situation in Ukraine and the greater frequency of extreme weather events being experienced around the world.” SLSMC spokesperson Jean Aubry-Morin explained. The Union’s wage increase could also lead to higher tolls along the waterway in the future.

“The stakes are high, and we are fully dedicated to finding a resolution that serves the interests of the Corporation and its employees. We remain committed to continuing discussions and reaching a fair labor agreement,” said SLSMC president and CEO Terence Bowles in a separate statement. However, Unifor National President, Lana Payne, claimed that SLSMC failed to make movements in the two past days. “This impasse is extremely unfortunate,” she commented, “but our members remain committed to getting a fair agreement.”

Hurricane Norma Hits Mexico

Hurricane Norma became a Category 4 storm earlier last week as it passed through the Mexican Pacific. However, on October 21, as it approached southern Baja California, it weakened to a Category 2 storm. By evening, the storm was about 105 miles west of Culiacán and 65 miles southwest of Mochi, moving northeast at 3 miles per hour. It reached a maximum wind speed of 65 miles per hour, with tropical storm-force winds up to 155 miles from the center of the storm.

Residents were told to take precautions and stay in their homes. In the meantime, shelters were set up, and local authorities maintained a “prevention zone” between Todos Santos and Los Barriles in the state of Baja California Sur. Local disaster management officials plan to open about 40 shelters across the country. The Mexican Navy has also deployed 5,000 marines to tend to states affected by Norma by providing ships, helicopters, trucks, food, water, and first aid.

Little major damage has been reported and there have been no reports of injuries. Security forces have continued to make rounds searching for people in need of help. However, the slow passing of the storm is predicted to cause more damage in the coming days.


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