Elias, Eli

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ELIAS, ELI (1912–2004), U.S. clothing manufacturer, Sephardi community leader. Elias was born in Rochester, n.y., and studied drafting and machine designs while in high school. In 1929, he moved to New York City and became a plant manager at his uncle's clothing factory. It was the start of a lifelong career in the garment business, both as a manufacturer of women's sportswear and as an industry leader. In 1931, Elias left his uncle's company to become a partner in Maybro Sportswear. He opened his own business, Elias Sportswear, in 1931. By 1946, his Brooklyn plant employed 1,200 workers. Elias shifted ownership of the company to his son Richard in 1979, after being named president and executive director of the New York Skirt and Sportswear Association. At its peak, the Association had almost 300 members and was one of the biggest garment contractor groups in New York City. Elias headed the Association until he retired at the age of 86. By that time, a surge of imports had reduced the membership to 11, and when Elias was asked about the future of the New York apparel industry in the face of increasing competition from abroad, he said he felt like saying Kaddish, the Hebrew prayer for the dead. In addition to heading the association, Elias organized the Federation of Apparel Manufacturers and the Garment Center Economic Security Council. For many years, he was a management trustee of many union benefit funds. He was a vice chairman of the board of the Garment Industry Development Corporation and a board member of the Council for American Fashion, the Educational Foundation for the Fashion Institute of Technology, and the High School of Fashion Industries, in New York City. Elias was also a founder of the Sephardic Temple of Cedarhurst, n.y., and an honorary president of United Sephardim of Brooklyn. He helped launch the Sephardic Home for the Aged in Brooklyn and received the Home's first Humanitarian Award, commemorating more than 55 years of service.


New York Times (Sept. 28, 2004); Women's Wear Daily (Sept. 29, 2004).

[Mort Sheinman (2nd ed.)]