Lily Safra – WOMAN of ACTION™



A Celebration of Women™

is elated to Celebrate the Life of this power of example for all Women Taking Action.

Through all the twists and turns of ‘life‘, including family death and divorce, this woman has achieved a thriving life in the world of philanthropy that has bettered the lives of women and children in over 40 countries in areas of education, science and medicine, religion, culture, and humanitarian relief.




lily profile

Lily Safra



Lily Safra is a Brazilian philanthropist and social figure who attained considerable wealth after four marriages. Her net worth is estimated at $1 billion, ranking her as the 701st richest person in the world according to Forbes in 2009. She owns a $506 million house, “Villa Leopolda“, in the French Riviera.

Safra was born Lily Watkins on December 30, 1934, in Porto Alegre, Brazil, daughter of Wolf White Watkins, a British railway engineer who moved to South America and Annita Noudelman de Castro, a Uruguayan of Russian-Jewish ancestry. She grew up in Rio de Janeiro. At the age of 17, she married Mario Cohen, an Argentine hosiery magnate. They had three children: Claudio, Eduardo, and Adriana.

RO1Lily and Cohen divorced in the early 1960s. In 1965, she married Romanian immigrant Alfredo “Freddy” Monteverde (formerly Greenberg), a leader in the Brazilian household appliance distribution business after establishing the Ponto Frio brand. He and Lily had one child, named Carlos. In 1969, Monteverde died by suicide.

According to biographer Isabel Vincent, Monteverde’s will left all his assets to her and, in concert with Monteverde’s former banker, Edmond Safra, she took swift action to cut off the rest of his family.

Lily and Edmond Safra dated for some time.

LILY HISTORY-FOUNDERS-PHOTOThis railwayman’s daughter from South London was living with her spectacularly rich fourth in South America to found the Safra Bank after leaving the Middle East. Few could see what Lily and Safra had in common. She was vivacious and socially ambitious. He was a thick-set workaholic.

With his family disapproving, Safra ended the relationship and Lily responded by flying to Acapulco in 1972, where she married Samuel Bendahan, a 35-year old Moroccan. Within two months they split and Lily was seeing Safra again.

They finally married in 1976.

While Edmond poured his energies into building up the Republic Bank of New York, Lily devoted herself to running their homes – including a fabulous South of France villa where she entertained Sinatra and Onassis.

In 1976, she married Safra, a prominent Brazilian-naturalized Jewish Lebanese banker, and the founder, among other achievements, of Republic National Bank of New York.

The couple divided their time between homes in Monaco, Geneva, New York and Villa Leopolda on the French Riviera.

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 through the Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation 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.

lily hospitalShortly after the declaration of the State of Israel in 1948, Dr. Chaim Sheba persuaded Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel, of the necessity to establish a pediatric service at Tel Hashomer to cope with wave of immigrant children suffering from malnutrition and infectious diseases.

Over the ensuing 50 years, the pediatric units have developed into a nationally and internationally renowned center for the treatment of children’s diseases.

In 2002 we inaugurated “The Edmond and Lily Safra Children’s Hospital” within the Sheba Medical Center, a magnificent four story facility.

Our mission is the treatment and caring of the sickest children with the most complex medical conditions. We are able to provide state-of-the-art care with all modern technologies available in each of our specialty units.

lily-safraraz-ger-present-till-hospitalMany of our patients have serious chronic diseases and we pay particular attention to providing a friendly, compassionate and pain-free environment for our children. READ MORE

Mrs. Safra is Honorary Chairman of the International Sephardic Education Foundation (ISEF), which she established with her husband in 1977.

ISEF is the largest non-profit organization promoting higher education for gifted Israelis from disadvantaged backgrounds. Since its founding, over 16,000 scholarships have been granted, including support for more than 1,000 MA and PhD students.

Both personally and through the Foundation, she supports research into cancer, HIV/AIDS, and neurodegenerative diseases, particularly Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, 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.

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 the Somerset House Arts Fund in London, as well as a member of the Chairman’s Council of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).

She is a member of the Director’s Circle of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem and is an Honorary Governor of the International Board of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.

LILY Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village in RwandaMrs. Safra has also taken a lead role in 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.

Lily Safra 3hAIFA
Mrs. Safra holds honorary doctorates from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University, 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 an Officier de la Légion d’honneur.

But not everything in her life was gilded.

A car accident claimed the life of her youngest son, Claudio, from her marriage to Cohen, and three-year-old grandson.

In a crime that attracted extensive media interest, Safra was killed in a fire that was determined to be arson. Edmond Safra “apparently felt so safe here that he did not have his bodyguards stay the night when he slept in Monaco”. Ted Maher, a former Green Beret, who was Safra’s bodyguard and nurse, was accused of starting the fire. His lawyer, Michael Griffith, has said that Maher did indeed start the fire in order to gain acceptance from Mr. Safra and that “It was a stupid, most insane thing a human being could do,” says Griffith. “He did not intend to kill Mr. Safra. He just wanted Mr. Safra to appreciate him more. He loved Mr. Safra. This was the best job of his life.” However, controversy still surrounds the case, as after his 8 year imprisonment, Maher has maintained his innocence. Safra left 50% of his assets to several charities, with the remainder divided up between his family members and wife who received $ 800 million.

The Philanthropist

Lily Safra, widow of billionaire Edmond Safra, leaves Monaco law court after nurse [Ted Maher], char..(Reuters) – Jewels belonging to Lily Safra, billionaire widow of banker Edmond Safra, are estimated to fetch more than $20 million at a May auction whose proceeds will benefit 20 charities selected by the philanthropist, Christie’s said on Tuesday.

The 70 gems, being offered at its Geneva sale on May 14, include diamonds, rubies and sapphires as well as antique pieces dating to the late 18th-century and period jewellery, it said.

“This jewellery collection reflects her refined taste and its evolution throughout five decades, from the 1970s to the present day,” Christie’s said in a statement.

Eighteen pieces are designed by Paris-based American jeweller Joel Arthur Rosenthal, known as JAR, making it “the largest private collection of creations by JAR ever to be offered at auction”, it said.

The majority were designed specifically for the Brazilian-born socialite over the last three decades by JAR, who produces about 70-80 works a year for an exclusive clientele, Christie’s spokesman Cristiano De Lorenzo said.

They include a ruby and diamond Camellia flower brooch, created for Lily Safra in 2003, estimated to fetch $1.2 million to $1.5 million, he said.

The brooch embodies JAR’s hallmark technique of setting small stones closely together to form a pavement of jewels.

“It must be an exceptional collection because Lily Safra and her late husband Edmond not only had unlimited means but excellent taste in art,” Eric Valdieu, an independent jewellery dealer based in Geneva, formerly of Christie’s, told Reuters.

Lily Safra sold artwork, furniture, silver and decorative objects from the couple’s collection at rival Sotheby’s (BID.N) last June, raising some $45 million.

But Valdieu said it was logical that she consigned her jewels to Christie’s, owned by French billionaire Francois Pinault, given the Safras’ close ties of over 30 years with Francois Curiel, international head of its jewellery department.

Lily-Safra-Jewels-For-Hope-Charity-Auction“After Liz Taylor, Lily Safra – emblematic collections are now being dispersed,” said Valdieu, who is also a fund manager for the Luxembourg-based investment fund Divine Jewels. A 32.08 carat Burmese ruby and diamond ring by Chaumet, a 34.05 carat emerald-cut diamond ring (D VVS1, Type IIa), and a 31.21 carat Burmese sapphire and diamond ring by Boucheron owned by Mrs. Lily Safra will be auctioned by Christie’s on May 14.

“A sublime collection of 70 rare jewels, comprising the very best in all styles, periods and makers, from the late 18th Century all the way to modern times, is enough to attract the attention of jewellery amateurs and professionals worldwide. When it includes also the largest group of creations by JAR ever to be offered at auction, it is bound to create a sensation. And when the entire proceeds of the sale are to be shared between 20 hand-picked charitable institutions in the four corners of the world, this landmark sale rises to a whole new level,” said François Curiel, International Head of the Jewellery Department, in a statement.

The Safra couple is known for their philanthropic work, including building Jerusalem’s Safra Square and donations to the Louvre in Paris, where a gallery bears their name.

Designated beneficiaries of the jewellery sale’s proceeds include Elton John AIDS Foundation, the Royal Opera House in London and several institutions researching Parkinson’s, a neurodegenerative disease which Edmond Safra had.

The Lebanese-born billionaire and banking scion who owned Republic National Bank of New York, died in a mysterious fire in his penthouse flat in Monaco in December 1999. His American male nurse Ted Maher was convicted of the arson death in 2002.

Lily Safra, who had three previous husbands, divides her time between London, New York, Geneva and Monaco.

Lily_Safra rubyShe clocked in at No. 1,015 on Forbes 2012 list of the world’s billionaires with a net worth of $1.2 billion. FORBES

The “Beau Sancy“, a diamond coveted by kings, queens and princes for centuries, used to reinforce alliances between nations and pawned to pay off royal debts goes on sale at Sotheby’s in Geneva on May 15, 2012.(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay, editing by Paul Casciato)

All proceeds from the sale of Mrs. Lily Safra’s jewelry collection will benefit the following 20 charitable institutions:

• Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village, Rwanda
• Children Action, Geneva, Switzerland
• Claude Pompidou Institute for Alzheimer‟s Disease, Nice, France
• Edmond and Lily Safra Children‟s Hospital, Tel Hashomer, Israel
• Edmond J. Safra Family Lodge at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Bethesda, Maryland, USA
• Elton John AIDS Foundation (worldwide)
• Fight AIDS Monaco
• Henry Street Settlement, New York
• Hopes and Homes for Children, Romania
• Hôpitaux Universitaires de Genève
• Imperial College, London: Edmond J. Safra Chair in Neuropsychopharmacology & Edmond J. Safra Chair in Radiochemistry
• Institute for Brain and Spinal Cord Disorders, Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital, Paris
• Keren Shemesh, Israel
• King‟s College, London: Edmond and Lily Safra Parkinson‟s Research Fellowships
• Le ballet de l‟Opéra national de Paris
• New York University, Parkinson and Movement Disorders Center
• Royal Opera House, London
• Université Joseph Fourier, Institut des Neurosciences, Bâtiment Edmond J. Safra & Institut Clinatec, Centre de Recherche Edmond J. Safra, Grenoble, France
• University of Toronto and Toronto Western Hospital, Canada: Edmond J. Safra Program in Parkinson‟s Disease (Dr. Anthony Lang & Dr. Andres Lozano)
• Water Treatment Program, Amélia Rodrigues (Bahia), Brazil

A Philanthropic Tradition

Through her active commitment and generosity, Mrs Lily Safra has carried on the philanthropic tradition, which she shared with her late husband, Mr Edmond Safra, one of the twentieth century’s most accomplished bankers and founder of the Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation. Since 2000, she has chaired this Foundation, which supports hundreds of projects related to education, science and medicine, religion, culture, and humanitarian relief in over 40 countries.

With the auction of these jewels, the Lily Safra Foundation has chosen to generously donate the proceeds of the sale to 20 charitable organisations. Furthermore, any proceeds above $20 million will be given to additional philanthropic institutions selected by the Foundation.




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Lily’s Foundation – Edmond J. Safra Foundation



A Celebration of Women™

welcomes this powerhouse into our global Alumni with open arms, embracing the positive action that this woman has created and continues to manifest, helping to better the lives of women and children around the globe.


Brava Lily!



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