The Shmooze

Philanthropist Lily Safra Honored by Museum of Jewish Heritage

By Masha Leon

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The Museum of Jewish Heritage: A Living Memorial to the Holocaust’s 18th Annual Heritage Dinner — held on site — was an evening-long effusive “thank you” to philanthropist extraordinaire, Lily Safra whom museum CEO “David Marwell” credited with “infusing the museum with financial oxygen.” Looking out at the guests in the museum’s Edmond Safra Hall, Marwell enumerated the museum’s “ world class content” and touted its “proximity to powerful and poignant symbols of American history—[Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty].”

“The museum is home to a history that is not ossified in the pages of a textbook, but rather lives in its galleries, classrooms,” said Marwell. “My European colleagues are in awe of the challenges that confront us…. Unlike their institutes [who] received the majority of their funding from the government — we rely almost entirely on the generosity of individuals.” Effusive about the Safra Theatre which “Lily bestowed on us in memory of her beloved husband Edmond,” Marwell enumerated the roster of “presentations by sages, klezmer…rabbis, rabble-rousers and risk-takers.”

Karen Leon
Lily Safra

As for the spectacular grand on stage, he thanked Safra for “perhaps the finest piano in the country” and noted “she included us when she auctioned off her jewelry and with that gift underwrote all of our programs for four years!”

Museum chairman-elect Bruce Ratner, declared: “Teaching the lessons of the Holocaust to new generations is an awesome responsibility.” Museum chairman Robert Morgenthau (who assumes chairman emeritus in June) expressed his gratitude “for all you and Edmond did to support [the museum’s] groundbreaking exhibitions and educating programs. “

Stunning in a black silk dress, with huge pearl necklace and matching pearl earrings, petite Lily Safra — up at the mic — turned to Morgenthau at her side and in her signature whispery voice said: ”My dear Bob — I am touched and humbled by your words…. I know how proud my husband Edmond would be to have his name so closely associated with such a remarkable place…inspiring thousands of visitors…countless teachers and students from around the country and throughout the world benefit from the museum’s educational programs.”

By evening’s end, the “finest piano in the world — a 9’ or was it a 10’2” long FAZIOLI — I couldn’t tell from where I sat —was center stage as award-winning violinist Giora Schmidt, accompanied by Rohan de Silva at the keyboard, delighted the audience with a spirited program that included works by Brahms and Massenet.

Recipient of honorary doctorates from universities around the world, Lily Safra has chaired the foundation, which assists hundreds of organizations in over 40 countries, since 1999. She built the Edmond and Lily Safra Children’s Hospital outside Tel-Aviv and has provided thousands of scholarships, funding professorships, research centers…and more.


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