A Long History of Philanthropy
The Samis Foundation started with a mission to support Jewish education in Washington state and initiatives in Israel. Since its inception, it has fulfilled this goal by giving more than $90 million in grants in support of over 150 different programs, organizations and initiatives.
During his lifetime, Sam Israel believed in giving back. Born in 1899 in the Sephardic community of Rhodes, then part of the Ottoman Empire, he and his family immigrated to Seattle in 1919. Sam had apprenticed as a shoemaker prior to emigrating to the US and, shortly after arriving, founded a series of successful shoe repair businesses in downtown Seattle, eventually landing a contract to repair shoes for the United States Army. Sam invested his earnings in real estate amassing a significant portfolio of properties and assets currently valued at approximately $180 million.
Before his death in 1994, Sam Israel established the Samis Foundation and appointed 16 lifetime trustees to govern the Samis Foundation. Many of the original lifetime trustees, their successors and professional staff oversee and manage the Foundation’s assets and philanthropic giving today. The Foundation continues Sam Israel’s legacy through its support of K-12 Jewish education locally, and five program areas in Israel including archaeology, immigration, college scholarships, widows and orphans, and wildlife preservation. In addition, the Foundation provides disaster relief when crises or natural disasters hit communities across the globe. The Samis Foundation is proud to preserve Sam’s legacy.
Strengthening ties to Judaism, building the Jewish community through Jewish education across Washington state, and the State of Israel.
– Connie Kanter, Chief Executive Officer, Samis Foundation
WATCH: THE HISTORY OF SAMIS (2:34)
The Samis Foundation Timeline
1987Samis gives first community grant to Seattle
1990Samis grants first $50,000 in support of the Jewish Agency's Operation Exodus for immigrants to Israel from the FSU
1994Samis begins Jewish overnight camp funding, reaching $5.5M in funding by 2019
2003Samis gives first major $3.4M capital grant to SHA to recover from Nisqually earthquake
2011Samis passes the $50M in giving mark
2015Samis grants first $75,000 of $1M to Haredi college scholarship programs in Israel
2018Teen Israel Experience Pilot Program begins, increasing giving from $40,000 to $650,000
2020Samis completes Youth Engagement Pilot Program which provided $174,000 to three grantees