By Menachem Posner, Chabad.org and COLlive
Moise Y. Safra, a banker known for his global philanthropy, passed away June 13 in São Paulo, Brazil. He was 79 years old.
One of eight siblings in a prominent family, he was born in Syria to Esther and Jacob E. Safra, who had started a bank bearing the family’s name in Beirut a century ago. The family—and their business—relocated to Brazil in 1952.
Not long afterwards, they developed a warm relationship with the Lubavitcher Rebbe through the agency of Rabbi Yosef Wineberg, who often traveled to Brazil on behalf of the Rebbe. They received many blessings from the Rebbe and supported his institutions.
“His kindness reached all across the world,” said Rabbi Y. Dovid Weitman, who directs Chabad Beit Chabad Morumbi in São Paulo and is rabbi of the Beit Yaacov Safra synagogue. “In just recent months, he dedicated institutions in Shanghai, China; Montreal, Canada; Montevideo, Uruguay; Monaco; and many more places.”
“Even though he was involved with political and business leaders, he had an amazing heart and was sensitive to every individual,” said Weitman. “After hosting a head of state for dinner, he could sit down with a poor man and listen to his problems, as if he had all the time in the world.”
“Sure, there are hospitals, universities, yeshivahs and synagogues all over the world that bear his name and the name of his brothers, but there was so much more done discreetly, with no one ever knowing,” continued the rabbi.
Rabbi Berel Levertov, Director of Chabad of Santa Fe, New Mexico, says he met Safra at the gala banquet of the International Kinus Hashluchim in New York, an annual evening that brings together Chabad rabbis and supporters, a few years ago.
“He had a passion to build mikvaos and especially in remote locations,” Levertov told COLlive.com. “He donated the beautiful Chella and Moise Safra Mikvah in Santa Fe and I was very impressed with the way he and his people went about giving charity – they were caring, trusting and swift.”
Survivors include Safra’s wife, Chella (Cohen); sons Jacob, Edmond and Ezra; daughters Esther and Olga; a brother, Joseph; and three sisters, Huguette, Gaby and Arlette.