11 July 2022
Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, mourns the passing of its longtime benefactor, Lily Safra of Geneva. Mrs. Safra (née Lily Watkins) was born in 1934 in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Along with her late husband, Edmond J. Safra, z”l, who passed away in 1999, Lily established the Safra Foundation in order to assist worthy organizations and needy individuals. Over the years, the Safra Foundation has made a difference in over fifty countries in four main areas of interest: education; science and medicine; religion; and humanitarian assistance, culture and social welfare.
Yad Vashem is privileged to have been the recipient of Lily and Edmond Safra’s generosity on numerous occasions. The Safra Foundation was the first major partner in building a new wing, inaugurated in 2012, of Yad Vashem’s International School for Holocaust Studies. The additional 50,000 square feet enabled the International School to greatly expand its work and reach. Included in the new wing is a large lecture hall and auditorium, aptly named in the memory of her late husband, which can sit 330 individuals, and has since opened its doors to numerous international forums, high-profile addresses and conferences.
In 2009, Mrs. Safra sponsored a concert of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. Taking place at Yad Vashem, the orchestra played Leonard Bernstein’s “Kaddish – Symphony No. 3” with the libretto “A Dialogue with God,” written and narrated by Holocaust survivor and Yad Vashem Benefactor, Dr. Samuel Pisar z”l. Then president of Israel, Shimon Peres, was present at the event.
In 2013, the Lily Safra Chair of Holocaust Education at the International School for Holocaust Studies was established as a result of generous endowment from Mrs. Safra. Director of the International School for Holocaust Studies Dr. Gilad Olshtein is the second incumbent of the Safra Chair. Mrs. Safra’s generous donation allows the director of the school to pursue previously unattainable initiatives. It also supports unique educational projects such as guest visits by the School director and School staff to audiences around the world for educational and outreach purposes, enables teachers to come to Yad Vashem for pedagogical seminars.
Upon her generous donation, Mrs. Safra stated: "Yad Vashem stands as an eternal memorial to those who perished, but with the International School for Holocaust Studies, it is also a beacon of hope. It is only through education that we can hope to prevent future generations from repeating the tragedies of the past. I am privileged to support its important work."
Yad Vashem Chairman Dani Dayan remarked: "It is also our duty to continue to remind and educate the world about what happened and how – as a fundamental tool against rising antisemitism, hatred and xenophobia. Thanks to the generous support of Lily and Edmond Safra and the Safra Foundation, Yad Vashem has been able to bring these valuable lessons and messages to a wide variety of audiences around the world."
Yad Vashem commends and appreciates Lily Safra’s commitment to Holocaust education and commemoration, particularly at Yad Vashem. It extends its heartfelt condolences to her children, Eduardo, Adriana and Carlos, and their families. May the memory of Mrs. Lily Safra z”l be for a blessing.