Joseph (Yusuf) Samuels was born in Taht El Takia, the Jewish quarter of the old city of Baghdad, Iraq in 1930. As his family’s financial situation improved, they moved to Bab El Shargui, a nicer neighborhood near the Tigris River when he was ten. Joseph was one of eight children, in his house he had six brothers and one sister. He attended Rachel Shahmoon primary school. After completing his junior high at Shamash school, he graduated from the Al A’adadia high school.
His family were traders and importers of fabric from India, England and Italy. They are the descendants of exiled Jews tracing their ancestry to the Babylonian destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem in 586 B.C.E.
At 11, Joseph witnessed the Farhud on June 1st and 2nd, 1941. Muslim mobs looted, ransacked and burned Jewish homes and businesses in the Jewish quarter of Baghdad. Hundreds of Jews were murdered, and numerous homes were looted and burnt. At 14, he was chased by two Muslim youths with knives after he stopped them from molesting a Jewish girl by punching one of them.
After graduating in 1948, Joseph’s dream to continue his studies in America was shattered. The failed Arab war against Israel led Iraq to turn its war against its own Jewish population. The real possibility of summary arrest, torture and execution brought fear in the heart of every Jew. Instead of going to America, Joseph had to flee for his life. He traveled from Baghdad to Basra by train, was smuggled out to Iran and then to Israel.
A homeless, penniless refugee, he arrived in Israel in 1950. Joseph (Yusuf) spent some time on a kibbutz, took different jobs and finally joined the Israeli Navy. He finished his service in 1953. With his dream for higher education, he left for Montreal, Canada in 1956.
In adjusting to the change of climate, culture and lack of funds, Joseph (Joe) had to put off his dream of studying in the United States. With no profession, no higher education or special talent he went into real estate. He got married in 1959 to Rebecca (Ruby). He has three children, Sharon, Lisa and Jeffrey.
Joe and his family moved to Santa Monica, California in 1978 where they remain.