Sam Domb’s life reads like a best-selling novel—the tale of a small boy who, despite frightful events and seemingly endless challenges, survived against all odds to become one of the leading business leaders and philanthropists in New York. A man who never forgets where he came from and the community to which he belongs.
“Working very hard and being honest gives a person the chance to succeed. I also pray every morning and ask God for help.”
From the inferno of the Holocaust, he immigrated alone to Israel, served in the Israeli Defense Forces and subsequently came to America, young, ambitious but penniless. Walking the streets around Times Square, he found work as a dishwasher and eventually stumbled on an opportunity to run and revive a small, dilapidated rental building, which, slowly but surely, he built into a thriving hotel business.
He still owns that original building, now completely restored, because “it’s a symbol of hope,” he says. “Working very hard and being honest gives a person the chance to succeed. I also pray every morning and ask God for help.”
Sam’s journey started when, at five years old, the Nazis forced his family out of their Polish town. After watching his mother get shot as they fled, Sam eventually reached the forest where a 10-year old boy helped him escape. He spent the next few years hiding in basements and under bridges, utterly destitute.
Today, Sam is not only a successful New York businessman, whose Empire Hotel Group™ owns The Pearl Hotel, the Lucerne Hotel and the Belvedere Hotel, among others, but he’s also the proud father of three adult children, Ronnie, Jay and Michelle. All three work with him, and now the next generation is coming on board—four grandchildren who have graduated from prestigious universities, all majoring in hospitality management.
Perhaps nothing indicates his business success better than the photos on his office wall, where you will see Sam with national and international leaders whom he’s befriended and advised over the years, including American presidents and Israeli prime ministers.
But enjoying his success in America isn’t enough for Sam. As a major philanthropist, he has dedicated himself to Israeli affairs and supports many causes, from providing educational opportunities for those in need, to renovating synagogues in New York City, to providing aid to the people of Sri Lanka.
“I have a great relationship with IDB. Everyone I come in contact with relates personally to me, attending to my needs and provides excellent service. I couldn’t ask for more.”
“When I was serving as an usher at a Madison Square Garden rally to promote Israeli bonds in the early days, I thought maybe one day I’d be able to give back, too,” he says.
Speaking about the many synagogues he has helped to renovate, he emphasizes, “It’s not about having a legacy; I don’t need anything like that. I just feel obligated in my heart because of the darkness of my past. I had to do something to light the future.”