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SAFRA , family of bankers. The family's roots in banking go back to the early 19th century, in *Aleppo, Syria. From there the Safra family financed trade and exchanged currencies from several different countries in Asia, Europe, and Africa, as well as precious metals such as silver and gold. In the mid-19th century, the family founded Safra Frères et Cie, the first bank bearing the family's name. The reputation acquired by the bank enabled its expansion to Istanbul, Alexandria, and Beirut, and in the 20th century also to Europe and America.

In the early 20th century, jacob safra (1891–1963) founded the Jacob Safra Bank in *Beirut. He laid the foundation for modern banking based on improved communication and the growing demand for trade between the Middle East and North America. In 1951 the Safra family moved beyond the Middle East, first to Italy and then, in 1952, to Brazil. Since then the family banking business has expanded to Europe, the United States, and throughout selected markets in Latin America.

Under the direction of Jacob's sons – elie (1922– ), edmond (1932–1999), moise, and joseph (1938– ) – the Safra's business expanded. Edmond and Joseph focused primarily on furthering the family's prominence in banking worldwide, particularly private banking.

Edmond Safra founded with his father the Trade Development Bank in 1956, which was sold to American Express in 1983. In 1966, Edmond founded the Republic National Bank of New York, which became one of the most respected banks worldwide. In 1988, he established Safra Republic Holdings s.a., a wealth management firm catering to the European marketplace. Both companies were sold to hsbc in 1999.

Joseph built the Safra Brazilian banking and investment businesses, the most prominent of which were Banco Safra Brazil in 1957; Safra National Bank of New York in 1980; Banque Safra Luxembourg in 1985; Banque Jacob Safra Suisse in 2000. Among other successful global investments are Aracruz in 1985 (pulp factory) and Cellcom Israel (cellular phone company) in 1994, which was sold in 2005.

The Safra family is distinguished for its prolific philanthropy and is particularly generous to Jewish causes. They have undertaken numerous donations to hospitals, schools, universities, and synagogues throughout the world.

[Rachel Mizrahi (2nd ed.)]