Mrs. Lily Safra shared her commitment to caring for the less fortunate with her husband, Mr. Edmond J. Safra, one of the twentieth century’s most accomplished bankers and founder of the Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation. Since 1999 she has chaired this Foundation, which supports projects related to education, science and medicine, religion, culture, and humanitarian relief in over 40 countries.
She has initiated many educational projects in memory of her husband, including endowing the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University. A long and distinguished relationship with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem led to the naming of the Edmond J. Safra Campus. In an impoverished area of northern Brazil, she founded the Alfredo J. Monteverde School, which teaches science and technology to 1,000 children. Mrs. Safra is Honorary Chairman of the International Sephardic Education Foundation, which she established with her husband in 1977, and which has become the largest non-profit organization promoting higher education for gifted Israelis from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Both personally and through the Foundation, she supports research into neurodegenerative diseases, particularly Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and the care of patients with those diseases, at dozens of hospitals and universities worldwide. Her awareness of the distress experienced by the families of those battling illnesses led her to construct the Family Lodge for patients and their families at the National Institutes of Health near Washington, DC. She and her husband built a cutting-edge children’s hospital in Tel Hashomer, outside of Tel Aviv, which annually treats thousands of children from across the region.
In 2006 Mrs. Safra established the Edmond and Lily Safra International Institute for Neuroscience in Natal, Brazil, now that country’s most highly-regarded brain research center. With her leadership, the Edmond J. Safra Foundation endowed the Edmond and Lily Safra Center for Brain Sciences at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the largest and most ambitious neuroscience project in Israel. She is a member of the Board of the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and of the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health.
Mrs. Safra is a Trustee of New York’s Museum of Jewish Heritage and an Honorary Governor of the International Board of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. A passionate art collector, she is a member of the Director’s Circle of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, home to the Edmond and Lily Safra Fine Arts Wing. She supported the joint acquisition of Bill Viola’s “Five Angels of the Millennium” by the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Tate Gallery in London, and the Whitney Museum in New York, and established the Edmond J. Safra Visiting Professorship at the National Gallery of Art in Washington. Mrs. Safra is also significantly involved with the activities of London’s Courtauld Institute of Art, supporting curators and providing scholarships to outstanding art history students. She took a leading role in the reconstruction and renovation of the magnificent Edmond J. Safra Synagogue of St. Petersburg, built in the late 19th century as the Grand Choral Synagogue.
Mrs. Safra also pursues humanitarian causes including building homes for orphaned children in Romania; constructing the Jordan River Valley Camp for children with cancer in Israel; helping to establish the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village in Rwanda; providing welfare services for the elderly in Odessa; and assisting the Red Cross with its relief efforts after natural disasters around the world. She is a Co-Founder of the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, dedicated to the sustainable and equitable management of natural resources.
Mrs. Safra holds honorary doctorates from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University, the University of Haifa, Brandeis University, and Imperial College London, and is an Honorary Fellow of King’s College London and the Courtauld Institute of Art. She is a Commandeur of France’s Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and Officier de la Légion d’honneur.