(JTA) — Samuel Miller, a Cleveland developer and philanthropist who championed relations between Catholics and Jews, has died.
Miller, the co-chairman emeritus of Forest City Realty Trust, Inc. in Cleveland, the real estate development company he helped build into a national giant, died Thursday. He was 97.
His son, the veteran Middle East peace negotiator Aaron David Miller, once described his father as a “brilliant, driven man” who was “as tough, smart and intimidating as any man I’ve ever known.”
“Born to Russian immigrant parents, he served in the navy at Guadalcanal, then went to Harvard, married my mother, and entered the family real estate business, where his toughness and smarts made him an indispensable asset in dealing with the unions and zoning boards,” his son wrote in the 2008 book, “The Much Too Promised Land.”
Sam Miller was close friends with a local bishop, Anthony Pilla, and together they coordinated bridge-building programs between the Jewish and Catholic communities. Miller supported Jewish organizations in Cleveland and served on the local boards of Jewish and other organizations. He also backed causes in Israel as well.
In the late 1980s he helped the Cleveland Diocese save 15 inner-city Catholic schools from closing. Miller had several meetings with Pope John Paul II over the years and was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland in 2015.
“I’m helping the Jews by helping the Catholics,” he told the Cleveland Jewish News in 2016, when he received the newspaper’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
In addition to Aaron, he is survived by his second wife, Maria; sons Abraham and Richard; and daughter, Gabrielle.