History, Vision and Mission

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.

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 $90 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.