Judah Samet arrived at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh at 9:49am Saturday, delayed four minutes because of a conversation with his housekeeper. Those four minutes likely saved the 80-year-old's life. "If I was inside the synagogue, I would be in the line of fire," Samet tells Forward as he recounts the 11 victims, where they sat, and what they were like; he knew almost all of them after 55 years at Tree of Life, where he had led morning services for years and chanted the Torah for four decades.
Samet, who turned 7 while at Germany's Bergen-Belsen concentration camp during the Holocaust and also spent more than five years at an orphanage in Israel after his parents died, says someone knocked on his window as he arrived to warn him there was a shooter. He saw the gunman exchange fire with police officers in the parking lot, bullets whizzing by his car. But "I survived the second time yesterday," he tells the Washington Post. Did memories of the Holocaust come to him as he sat watching the shooting, the deadliest attack against Jews in US history? "I said, 'It never stops,'" he recalls. (Muslims have raised more than $100,000 for synagogue victims.)