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A Leader For Difficult Times


The night of December 8, 2008, was exceptionally cold, but those who attended a special reception for Sam Domb at Abigael’s on Broadway in Manhattan felt only the warmth of this indefatigable man’s love for the Jewish people.

Sam Domb, a survivor of the Shoah, has established for himself a unique reputation in many areas. Starting out as a dishwasher when he arrived in the United States from Israel, he eventually became the owner of a hotel chain in New York. In the process, he befriended many local and national political leaders and became a confidante to numerous Israeli prime ministers who sought his advice and support.

But Sam Domb was never blinded by wealth or success. He felt the responsibility to help those less fortunate, distributing millions of dollars to the poor and needy in America, Israel and Jewish communities throughout the world.

In fact, his charity is not limited to Jews – he was one of the first to sponsor a fundraiser for the victims of the tsunami in Sri Lanka. He has gained acclaim for refurbishing synagogues, including the West Side Institutional Synagogue, the Carlebach Shul, Congregation Ohav Shalom and Congregation Ramath Orah, and has helped other houses of worship throughout the city, fixing their boilers, repairing their roofs and providing other necessary repairs.

But Sam Domb’s real passion is Jewish education. He believes he was fortunate enough to be connected to rabbis and teachers who influenced him and his late wife, Sara, to send their children to day schools, and that has made all the difference. In gratitude to the synagogue that gave his family its start, Sam Domb and his family dedicated the main sanctuary and the youth building at the Young Israel of Jamaica Estates. As a result of his own family’s experience, the gift of Jewish education has become the gift he wishes to share with all Jews to make certain that no Jewish child will ever be turned away.

Those who were fortunate enough to attend the reception at Abigael’s on that icy cold night witnessed one of the great moments of charitable giving. A longtime resident of the Upper West Side, Sam Domb feels a special obligation to the neighborhood’s Jewish schools. In an extraordinary act of philanthropy, he distributed checks of $100,000 each to the Manhattan Day School, Yeshiva Ketana of Manhattan and Manhattan Hebrew High School for Girls.

Also included in his generosity were the National Jewish Outreach Program and Yeshiva Ohel Moshe of Brooklyn, which thanks to Sam Domb has been able to accommodate dozens of children who previously attended public schools.

Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, saluted Sam Domb, saying: “Virtually everyone has been hurt by the economic downturn. There are those who legitimately cannot give and others who find this a convenient cover for not giving. Mr. Domb, by increasing his commitments, has set an admirable standard for others to emulate. I hope others will follow and I hope that institutions and organizations that provide vital services will continue to be able to function and meet the increasing demands placed on them. His generous response to the challenge of the moment is exemplary.”

Elliot Gibber, chairman of Manhattan Day School, praised Sam Domb as “a rodeph tzedakah v’chesed, a man who pursues righteousness and lovingkindness, always searching for ways to help others.”

The Manhattan Day School, he announced, will be dedicating its new aron kodesh in honor of Sam Domb.

“Sam acts with full faith in Hashem in continuing to support Jewish education, knowing that tzedakah is the engine that will enable our businesses to prosper and flourish,” said Harry Skydell, president of Yeshiva Ketana of Manhattan.

In my own remarks, I noted that “For Mr. Sam Domb, the secret source of the vitality of the Jewish people has always been the bet midrash, Jewish education. There is no one I know who has gone as far as Mr. Domb to ensure a vibrant Jewish future through education.”

Sam Domb offered a moving response to the tributes in his honor, urging all present to speak up for Israel and the Jewish people as he personally spoke up when he met President Mubarak of Egypt and King Hussein of Jordan. He asked those present not to thank him but to rather do acts of kindness to help others. He emphasized that, especially in these hard economic times, it was very important for him to continue his philanthropic giving, and urged all those in a similar position to give as well.

Shea Schwebel, chairman of the board of Yeshiva Ketana of Manhattan, spoke for all who know Sam Domb when he praised what he called “Sam’s consistent and overwhelming generosity to Jewish education, and by the impact he has on his friends’ giving.”

“Sam,” he concluded, “is truly a leader for our times.”

About the Author: Rabbi Ephraim Z. Buchwald is director of the National Jewish Outreach Program.


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