BUSINESSMAN AND philanthropist Sami Shamoon supported education, health and the heritage of Eastern Jewry. Born into a wealthy Baghdadi family, one of six brothers and three sisters, he studied typing and accounts at school in order to join his father and uncle in their import-export firm.
With Arab states venting their anger at the new state of Israel by attacking their Jewish citizens, Sami left for Turkey in 1952. In 1953 he and a brother moved to Israel and did army service.
Sami then joined his father, who had relocated to Iran, to manage and develop the international family business. After the 1979 Iranian revolution, he and his wife moved to London until settling in Israel in 2003.
He spent his years in Britain as part of a circle of Sephardi businessmen involved in the Jewish community.
He and his brother David funded the expansion of the Jewish Preparatory School, founded at Lauderdale Road Synagogue in 1982. In 1985 they bought new premises and provided scholarships. In 1996 the school was renamed Naima JPS after their mother.
In 1985 he was on a three-man team representing the Iraqi-Jewish community at the Board of Deputies for the first time. He hosted visits by Israel’s top Sephardi rabbis and was active in then MP Greville Janner’s Commonwealth Jewish Council. From 1994 he supported the Community Security Trust.
In 1999 he became president of the relaunched Sephardi Federation of the UK and Commonwealth, and presided over a 2003 London conference on The Forgotten Jews of the Middle East.
His pledges of investment were crucial to negotiations to rescue Ethiopian Jews in the 1991 Operation Solomon.
In Israel he was president of the Babylonian Jewry Heritage Centre, a governor of the Diaspora Museum, and a major supporter of the Wolfson Hospital in Holon. After the 2005 tsunami, he paid for open-heart surgery on 10 Thai children at the hospital’s new cardiology unit, named after him and his wife.
He set up some 20 computer centres to train boys from poorer families, and funded the rebuilding of the Negev Academic College of Engineering, which was renamed after him in 2004.
His contribution to Israel’s economy and Jewish education, culture and heritage was recognised with a lifetime achievement award from Bar Ilan University in 2002.
He is survived by his wife, Angela, and daughter, Alexandra.