Sami Rohr, an investor and one of Chabad's largest benefactors, passed away. Hundreds of Jewish communities will remember his generosity.
By COLlive reporter
Sami Rohr, a real estate mogul whose commitment to Jewish continuity made him one of Chabad's largest benefactors in recent history, passed away Sunday, 17 Av 5772.
He was 86.
A former Colombian Jewish investor, Rohr gave tens of millions of dollars to Chabad to establish outposts throughout the former Soviet Union, on college campuses and at remote spots around the world.
Reportedly, Rohr and his family underwrite the salaries of some 500 Shluchim, and have a foundation specifically to help Chabad rabbis on U.S. campuses construct buildings.
"There are those who speak of Jewish continuity, but you are the ones who create it," Rohr told the gala benquet of the International Kinus Hashluchim in 2006 when he was guest of honor, a rare occasion as he was known to shun publicity.
Rohr's childhood was most characterized by the violent anti Semitism and murderous horrors of Europe. Born in Berlin, his family escaped Germany after Kristallnacht and before the outbreak of the Second World War. His parents were sent to a refugee camp when he was 16.
Yet he did not let the harsh experiences influence or change his good character and hearty nature - or his devotion to his heritage and people.
Upon being sent to South America and making inroads in the real estate industry, he and his late wife Charlotte made Jewish education their No.1 priority, sharing with their children - George, Evelyn and Lillian - knowledge and the importance of practice.
Tzedaka was just one more aspect passed over to the next generation, but one that has made the Rohr family exemplary for giving and synonymous with caring.
The Rohrs began with founding the magnificent Adat Israel synagogue in Bogota and donated generously to the United Jewish Appeal. Soon enough they discovered the world of Chabad and asked the Rebbe to send a Shliach to Colombia.
While instructing their children to give maaser (10% percent tithing of their income) to charity, they have given themselves to build the growing empire of Chabad-Lubavitch stretching from South America to Russia and North America to cyberspace, Chabad.org reported.
Working in tandem, the Rohrs' generosity only increased exponentially after their move to Miami in the late 1970s. In particular, they helped found the trend-setting, wildly successful Lubavitch outreach center in Bal Harbour known simply as The Shul, led by Rabbi Sholom Ber Lipskar.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Mr. Rohr and his son George invested heavily in Eastern Europe’s Jewish centers, sponsoring dozens of Chabad Houses.
After Mrs. Rohr's passing, Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky said: "When the history of Judaism in the 20th and 21st centuries will be written, Sami and Charlotte Rohr and their family will be recognized as pivotal forces behind a Jewish renaissance in many countries, cities and townlets throughout the world."
Kotlarsky, vice chairman of Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch and a close family friend, added at the time, "Their unending generosity and dedication to their people have enabled countless individuals, families and communities to re-identify with their faith and strengthen their Jewish observance."
As mentioned, Mr. and Mrs. Rohr shunned the public limelight, preferring instead to live a simple and quiet life. Outside of those who absolutely needed to know, most people were in the dark as to the full extent of the Rohr family’s philanthropy.
A revealing personal moment took place in April 2012 when Sami Rohr returned to Basel, Switzerland, to inaugurate the Chabad community center he donated in honor of the Feldinger family who sheltered him as a young boy.
At a reception in his honor at the Grand Council of Basel, he was visibly overwhelmed with emotion, and told reporters, "You have to understand, I was here as a refugee boy..."
He is survived by his son George, daughters Evelyn Katz and Lillian Tabacinic, and their families; and the hundreds of Jewish communities around the world who will remember his everlasting example.
COLlive.com was told that he will be buried Tuesday morning 8 AM at Jerusalem's Mt. of Olives cemetery near his wife. Assemblage will take place near the Continental Hotel at the peek.