Holocaust survivor Judah Samet, who narrowly avoided a shooting spree at a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018, passed away on Tuesday. He was 84.
Samet was a few minutes late for services at the Tree of Life synagogue and was pulling into a disabled place when a guy informed him there were gunshots inside.
Samet had survived the Bergen-Belsen detention camp during World War II.
Samet observed an officer and the attacker exchanging fire. In the bloodiest attack on Jews in American history, eleven people died.
Afterward, he expressed amazement that this hadn’t occurred sooner.
Samet, six years old when the Nazis arrived at his home and ordered everyone to leave, was born in Hungary on February 5, 1938.
Before their 1945 liberation, his family was interned at Bergen-Belsen for ten months in Germany. A few days later, his father passed away from typhus.
Samet relocated to Israel after the conflict and worked as a paratrooper there. He moved in the 1960s to Pittsburgh. Samet worked in the jewelry store owned by his father-in-law before buying it.
For many years, Samet kept his Holocaust experiences private.
But by the 1990s, when “Schindler’s List,” an epic movie, was out and more elderly survivors were passing away, he thought to himself, “My God, who’s going to tell this story? ”
As many as tens of thousands of people heard Samet speak about his Holocaust experience in schools and other venues, mainly in Pittsburgh but also as far away as Montana.
In 2020, he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Unfortunately, only folks like me can bear testimony.” But once the final generation of Holocaust survivors has passed, he said, historians and others will need to communicate the tale compellingly.
In a written statement, Rabbi Jeffrey Myers of Tree of Life noted that Judah “leaves an extraordinary legacy to the world, of a man who survived not one, but two tragedies done by humanity against the Jews.”
He showed us the proper reaction method: restrained enthusiasm, grace, and strength.
Samet was seated next to the first lady Melania Trump during President Donald Trump’s 2019 State of the Union address when lawmakers stood to applause as the president told Samet’s story and impromptu sang “Happy Birthday,” to which Samet grinned and shouted, “thank you.”
What a life the man lived!
“His nephew Larry Barasch announced Samet’s passing on Facebook.
Thursday was the funeral for Samet. He left a daughter behind.