On the outskirts of Jack London Square near 4th and Webster, photographer Eric Sahlin remembers his longtime friend, Judy Salamon, who was accidentally shot dead on July 24.
Salamon, 66, was driving in front of the Home of Peace Cemetery, a 113-year-old Orthodox cemetery on the 2400 block of Fern Street in Oakland in the afternoon of July 24 when she was fatally shot. For her life to end, at a place where six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust are memorialized for eternity is symbolic of how she lived.
Their left-wing politics is what cemented the friendship from the first meeting at Walden Pond Books on Grand Avenue twenty-four years ago, Sahlin recalls. She was a woman ahead of her time. She engaged in political debates and was very attractive. She was 66 at the time of her death and would take great offense at being called an elderly lady, he says.
“She cared about the community she lived in,” he says.
Although she couldn’t vote because the Canadian native wasn’t an American citizen, she worked on the 2008 and 2012 Barack Obama presidential campaign. She rallied everyone she knew to go to the polls.
She immersed herself in social justice causes, lobbying to increase security in her neighborhood to reduce the high crime rate. She knew that poverty and dysfunction could be traced back to a difficult history of the people in her neighborhood. Judy herself had a difficult childhood. She was born in Budapest, Hungary to Holocaust survivors shortly after World War II on April 30, 1947.
When she was two years old, her parents decided to flee the Communist regime in Hungary. They immigrated to Canada and moved five times in a decade. At 17, she lost her mother.
Shortly after, she decided to study in Jerusalem at Hebrew University without knowing a word of the language.
Salamon had a knack for foreign languages. “She often corrected my English and she spoke five languages that carried her all through Europe spending several years abroad,” Sahlin says.
She was also a pacifist. She would say that the only way to resolve the world’s problems was to mandate three years of study abroad, join the Peace Corp instead of the Army and that countries need to fund fewer wars and more friendships, Sahlin recalls.
After her undergrad studies at Hebrew University, she traveled in Europe and settled in Barcelona. She became a professional flamenco dancer and married a Spanish dignitary.
Her first marriage ended in the 1970s so Salamon decided to go back to Canada for a master’s degree in Comparative Literature, then promptly entered a doctorate program at the University of Toronto.
A second marriage to a University of California professor brought her to the Bay Area in the mid-1980s.
“It was 1993 when she bought her Maxwell Park home. Even then, I felt she wasn’t safe,” Sahlin says adding that he felt there was a lot of crime in the neighborhood.
Salamon worked many jobs. Among them was as a translator, a marketing associate for a credit union and a computer analyst in quality assurance during the dot com boom.
In 2007, like many Americans, she had trouble finding employment. She also stumbled upon age discrimination.
“Companies just did not want to hire expensive consultants,” Sahlin says. Out of necessity, she turned her passion for taking care of dogs into a vocation. She nursed animals back to health at Hop Along & Second Chance Animal Rescue and worked to find homes for them.
“Judy loved opera, music and art,” says her half-sister Agi Gyurik. “She was an usher at the San Francisco Opera and a docent for The Bancroft Library Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life in Berkeley.”
“She cared for people as much as she loved her pets, a tabby named Tiger and Chihuahua named Echo,” Gyurik says.
On Fern Street, where Salamon was killed, the homicide investigation continues.
Sahlin says resources to investigate the cause of crimes including homicide are lacking. “We have license to murder in Oakland with no repercussions.”
“There is a code of silence that some neighborhoods are afraid to break,” he says, adding that many residents won’t speak to police because they are afraid of retaliation.
Sahlin looks at a black and white photo of his friend in her twenties dancing flamenco in a sequin gown. “She loved dancing, you know, if you asked her to dance her eyes would light up.”
To read more on Salamon’s life, visit forever missed.