Samuels, Joe

Joe Samuels was born December 31, 1930 in Baghdad, Iraq:  he was actually uncertain of his birthday but knew that he was born during Hanukkah and upon his emigration to Israel he chose the December 31 date – to coincide with an international celebration!  Joe grew up in a Baghdad that he remembers as multicultural and welcoming; he described his childhood as positive.  The death of King Faisal changed that reality though; the new king, Ghazi, moved towards the Nazi camp, and that led to the infamous moment known as the Farhud.  A mob stormed into the Jewish quarter of Baghdad, indiscriminately murdering Jews:  the latent antisemitism had erupted, destroying Joe’s neighborhood.  Joe and his family moved to a different part of the city, and with the arrival of British troops and the removal of Ghazi and the pro-Nazi elements life began to return to normal.  Joe returned to school, and the family business prospered in the next few years.  Uncertainty returned after the war, when the Palestine Partition Plan was being debated.  Protests erupted all over the Arab world, and Joe’s family again felt the sense of threat.  Joe had graduated high school at this time, and he decided to apply for an exit visa, which was refused.  That is when he made the decision to escape:  Joe and his brother engaged smugglers and made the trip via boat from Basra to Iran.  From Iran they went to Israel, where Joe spent time in a refugee camp before going to a kibbutz.  It was not the life he wanted though, so Joe completed his military service in the Israeli navy and began to consider other options.  He made the decision to go to Canada to pursue his education, and he ended up in Montreal.  The combination of work and university proved to be difficult, so Joe left school and went into sales and eventually real estate.  He married and began his family and by all accounts life was good until politics intervened again; the 1976 election of the Parti Quebecois hurt his business prospects, so Joe left Quebec and headed south to California.  He maintained his successful career in the new circumstances, and his family prospered as they followed the lessons Joe learned during his own life.  Crestwood students met Joe Samuels via zoom in February 2024.