By COLlive reporter
Tamir Sapir, ranked 721st on the Forbes Magazine list of billionaires in 2010 and a noted philanthropist to Jewish causes and Chabad, passed away on Thursday, the first day of Rosh Hashana 5775.
He was 67.
Born Temur Sepiashvili in Tbilisi, Georgia, Sapir left the Soviet Union in 1973 in a wave of Jewish emigration, first settling in Israel. He helped many with their immigration documentation to escape the Iron Curtain.
After the Yom Kippur War, he moved to Italy, Germany and later in the United States, where he worked as a driver for the elderly and a taxi driver in New York City.
Mortgaging his taxi medallion gave him money to invest in opening a wholesale electronics store on lower Fifth Avenue, which became an enclave for visiting Soviet dignitaries and trade delegations seeking to purchase state-of-the-art electronics.
He made millions bartering fertilizer and oil with the Soviets in the 1980s, which he later invested in New York real estate.
Since 2008, he was ranked on the 400 Richest Americans list with a net worth of 1.9 billion dollars. In March 2010, he ranked 721st on the Forbes Magazine list of billionaires, with a net worth 1.4 billion dollars.
Sapir has been active in the Jewish Russian and Georgian communities, where he gained a reputation for his generosity.
He built the Congregation of Georgian Jews synagogue in Rego Park, Queens, which is led by Rabbi Avraham Ashville and Rabbi Aharon Chein, and supported the Council of Jewish Emigre Community Organizations (COJECO), a coordinating body for Jewish emigres from the former Soviet Union.
In 2008, he joined his billionaire friend Lev Leviev for a tour at the Ohr Avner Chabad school in Berlin and the Judisches Bildungszentrum – Rohr Chabad Center.
When a grandson was born to Sapir’s daughter Zina and son-in-law, Rotem Rosen, a bris milah ceremony and celebration was held at Ohel Chabad Lubavitch in Queens, near the Rebbe‘s Ohel, attended by Chabad Shluchim and activists.
Since 2006, his son Alex Sapir has been running the Sapir Organization, and in 2014 he purchased EGRE Ltd, aka ASRR Capital, an Israel-based holding company that invests in real estate activities.
“My father was the pioneer of the family and an inspiration to us all,” Alex said. “He loved to help and give and especially loved the State of Israel and the Jewish people.”