Tamir Sapir, Chairman
Born behind the Iron Curtain in Tbilisi, Georgia, Mr. Sapir left the Soviet Union in 1973 in a wave of Jewish emigration, first settling in Israel then migrating to the United States. He began his meteoric rise in the business community by buying and mortgaging a taxi medallion in New York City and investing his life savings to open a wholesale electronics store on lower Fifth Avenue, which became an enclave for New York’s growing Russian community and for visiting Soviet dignitaries and trade delegations seeking to purchase state-of-the-art electronics. In 1985, he was invited to join a delegation of U.S officials and corporate members in of the U.S.-U.S.S.R. Trade and Economics Council, the main East-West trade organization of the Soviet era. He became a member of the council, which organized meeting between U.S. corporations and Soviet officials to improve trade. Mr. Sapir was one of the major foreign partners for the emerging oil industry in Russia.
Mr. Sapir is extremely generous and provides support and funding for Russian émigrés seeking to make America their home. He is active in the Russian and Georgian communities, where he has gained a reputation for his philanthropy. He strongly believes in preserving Georgian culture and helping other former-Soviet Union immigrants get started in the U.S. He is on the Board of Directors of the Council of Jewish Émigré Community Organizations (COJECO), a UJA-Federation grantee, and the central coordinating body for Jewish émigrés from the former Soviet Union, for which he provides free office space. Mr. Sapir received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 2000 from the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations.
Mr. Sapir built the Congregation of Georgian Jew Synagogue in Rego Park, Queens, as well as a synagogue in Israel. He is an avid collector of rare European ivory, building a world-class collection destined for a future museum he is planning. He also provides support for charitable organizations such as the Russian Gift of Life, Inc.; The Russian Children’s Welfare Society; and the Scholarship fund. In 2005, Mr. Sapir was honored by the New York Association for New Americans, a UJA-Federation beneficiary agency, for his staunch support of the organization’s mission of providing financial support and guidance to new immigrants.