The Samis Foundation was created in 1994 to reinvest the profits of Samuel Israel’s real estate business to support Jewish education locally, and other program areas in Israel. The Foundation today is guided by Sam’s vision and the trustees’ values of intensive, immersive Jewish education, support for initiatives in Israel, and our responsibility to help in urgent times of global need.

Sam-Image[1]In 1899, Samuel Israel was born to Isaac and Sarah Israel in the Sephardic Jewish community of Rhodes. As a young man in the old country, he apprenticed as a shoemaker  and in 1919 emigrated to Seattle with his parents, brothers and sister. Successful in Seattle as a shoemaker, Sam invested his profits in real estate which appreciated dramatically over many decades. In 1979, Sam began making gifts and became known as a devoted supporter of many Jewish and secular causes in both Washington State and Israel.

Sam appointed 16 trustees to govern the Samis Foundation upon his death in 1994; the original trustees and their successors continue to oversee and manage the Foundation’s assets and philanthropic giving today. The Samis Foundation continues Sam Israel’s legacy, supporting K-12 Jewish education locally, and other program areas in Israel. In Seattle, Samis is recognized for its longtime support of Jewish day school education and scholarships for camping and Israel experiences for teens; in Israel, Samis’ reach extends from the social service sector to wildlife preservation and archaeology. The Samis Foundation also provides disaster relief support when crises or natural disasters hit communities across the globe. Since 1994, the Samis Foundation’s grant giving totals more than $76 million to support Seattle’s Jewish community and Israel.  

The legacy Sam Israel left is “I am My Brother’s Keeper.” This is a rephrasing of the original Hebrew which asks, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Sam Israel accepted the responsibility to take care of the poor Jew, the uneducated Jew, the Jew in Israel. The Samis Foundation is proud to perpetuate Sam’s legacy.

The Samis Foundation is governed by a Board of Trustees listed here, along with the staff of the Foundation.


Jerome O. Cohen, President

David Azose, Vice President

David A. Ellenhorn, Secretary

Eddie Hasson, Treasurer and Chair, Finance/Audit Committee


Victor Alhadeff, Chair, Grant Committee

Eli Almo, Chair, Asset Management Committee

Dana Behar, Vice Chair, Asset Management Committee

Barry Ernstoff

David Friedenberg*

Eli Genauer

Rabbi William Greenberg*

Mike Israel*

Connie Kanter, Vice Chair, Grant Committee

Al Maimon

Rabbi Ron-Ami Meyers

Lucy Pruzan, Chair, Trusteeship Committee

Greg Roer

Ernie Sherman

Dr. Alex Sytman

Irwin Treiger*



Rabbi Rob Toren, Executive Director

Amy Amiel, Senior Program Officer

Peggy Longeway, Executive Assistant

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