BOSTON (JTA) — His name adorns the headquarters of Boston’s Jewish federation.
His giving to Jewish causes at home and in Israel is legendary.
And of course he is the owner of the beloved New England Patriots, the NFL’s most successful 21st-century franchise, winner of this year’s Super Bowl and a near-religious force binding together Boston and its suburbs.
The news last week that Robert Kraft, 77, was charged with soliciting prostitution sent shock waves through this city and a philanthropic community, Jewish and otherwise, that saw him as a benefactor and role model.
Ask people for reactions and the word you hear most is “saddened,” followed quickly by a reminder that individuals are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Some point to his age; to the loss in 2011 of his wife of almost 50 years, Myra; to the idea that an indiscretion at a massage parlor should be weighed against the $400 million he has given to charity over the years.
“What has been reported at this time is certainly concerning,” the Combined Jewish Philanthropies, Boston’s Jewish federation, wrote in an email to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
“For several generations, the Kraft family has committed their time, energy and resources to support organizations and programs that have benefitted the health and well-being of the citizens of Greater Boston and our region. They have played a transformational role in the life of our Jewish community; helping seniors, families and young people in need as well as working to unite and foster understanding between people of different backgrounds,” the statement read.
The Kraft family donated $10 million to renovate the philanthropy’s downtown Boston building, which was dedicated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony last April attended by Kraft and his sons, Jonathan and Daniel, who serves on the CJP board. The building now houses a boardroom named for Myra Kraft, who also served on the philanthropy’s board. The Harry Kraft Center for Jewish Education was named in memory of Kraft’s father, a longtime and beloved teacher at Congregation Kehillath Israel, the Conservative synagogue in nearby Brookline where Kraft attended religious school as a child. Harry Kraft, who owned the Crown Dress company, also led youth services and served as the synagogue’s president.
CJP did not provide the amount of money donated in recent years by the Kraft family. In 2013, the Robert and Myra Kraft Family Foundation donated $1.12 million. It also supports a program that funds teen trips to Israel, according to the CJP website.
Other area Jewish organizations and religious institutions that have benefited from Kraft’s philanthropy did not respond to JTA’s request for a comment.
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