Friday, May 24, 2013
From Beirut to Brazil: here comes Chella Safra
Here's a name to watch for - Chella Safra, the newly-elected treasurer of the World Jewish Congress. It would be nice to see this Beirut-born member of the well-heeled Safra banking family take a proactive role in the WJC's campaign for Justice for Jews from Arab Countries. Interview in Haaretz (with thanks: Michelle):
BUDAPEST – For Chella Safra, it’s a bit of déjà vu. That same uncomfortable feeling she had being a Jew in Beirut after the 1967 Six Day War is palpable in the streets of the Hungarian capital these days.
“Growing up, I never felt threatened,” Safra, the freshly elected treasurer of the World Jewish Congress, told Haaretz in an interview, “but we made sure never to mention Israel, Zionism or the Star of David. It got a little bit worse after the war when the Palestinians moved into South Lebanon. That was when being Jewish or pro-Israel became an issue.”
Safra, who moved with her family to Brazil in 1968, at the age of 18, is married to billionaire Moise Safra, also Lebanese-born, of the famed Jewish banking family. They have five children and 12 grandchildren and live in Sao Paolo. In 2006, her husband sold his stake in the family banking business to his brother Joseph for an estimated $2 billion, according to Forbes Magazine.
A well-known figure in the Brazilian Jewish philanthropic world, Safra said her new appointment is “the most important and international position I’ve held” and that in light of the recent surge in anti-Semitism in various European countries, she believes the World Jewish Congress, which lobbies governments around the world on behalf of Jewish causes, has its work cut out for it.
“The WJC must dedicate its attention now to try to stop these trends, intervene with the governments of the countries to find a solution and make available to everyone news of what is happening so that bad things will never happen again,” she said. (...)
Although she has very fond memories of her childhood years in Beirut, Safra said she has no desire to return for a visit and that it would make her upset “to go back and not recognize the city where I grew up, where I have memories of the best time in my childhood.” At the moment, she said, “It’s a project put on the side.”
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