Samis Foundation:
Life and Legacy

The Samis Foundation

During his lifetime, Samuel 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. Sam Israel’s biography, released January 31, 2022, is available for order on Amazon.


Intensive, immersive Jewish education is the centerpiece of the Samis Foundation’s philanthropy in Washington State, with support for Jewish day school education as a priority. A day school education provides children with a solid foundation for their Judaism, giving them crucial knowledge about their culture and religion. The Foundation invests heavily to help ensure Jewish day school is affordable for all children and families by providing annual operations grants to cover the scholarship needs for day schools in the Seattle area.  Samis further invests in the instructional and institutional quality of the day schools supporting professional development for faculty, board capacity building, Judaic and Israel curriculum, technology initiatives and special needs.

Samis grantmaking in the field of experiential Jewish education includes annual support for Jewish camps, teen Israel experiences, and youth enrichment and engagement programs. Samis supports general operations, programmatic grants, and needs-based scholarships, as well as funding for capital projects for Jewish summer camps. In recent years, the Foundation launched pilot programs to expand its reach in support of teen Israel experience programs and youth enrichment and engagement programs. Youth who engage in these types of intensive, immersive Jewish experiences strengthen their Jewish identity, deepen their understanding of Jewish traditions, create lifelong Jewish friendships, and develop strong connections with the State of Israel.  

Samuel Israel was committed to a successful and vibrant State of Israel for the Jewish people. Today, Samis continues to carry out this vision. The Foundation’s grantmaking assists those on the socio-economic periphery to become independent and contributing citizens through immigrant absorption programs, needs-based scholarships for students to access higher education and technical training, and support for “widows & orphans, because they have lost their providers” (Sam’s words) as well as victims of domestic violence. Samis’ Israel philanthropy also promotes the conservation and enjoyment of Israel’s rich wildlife resources, and archaeology. 

Samis Foundation Strategic Plan for Philanthropy

In 2020, the Foundation completed its first five-year (2021-2021) strategic plan. Click to read the 2021-2025 Samis Foundation Strategic Plan for Philanthropy and explore the Samis Strategic Plan Booklet. Explore below to learn more about Samis’ four Strategic Impact Goals.

Foundation Strategic Impact Goals

Samis Board & Professional Staff

The Samis Foundation Board is comprised of 20 trustees including 10 lifetime trustees. Each of our trustees brings a unique perspective, professional expertise, and experience in the Jewish community which supports the operations and grantmaking of the Foundation. (r.2021)
Click here to explore board and professional staff bios.

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