Inspiring those on and off the field – Myra Kraft (1942-2011)

The Patriots' jerseys honored Myra Kraft

On the heels of this past weekend’s Superbowl, DC resident David Isser finds a Jewish message tied to the New England Patriots.

This past summer, I traveled up to Boston for a celebration that took place in Temple Emanuel, a beautiful traditional temple located in Newton, MA. This was the same temple that Myra Kraft attended, and literally a week after my friend’s wedding, Myra Kraft’s funeral was held in the same chapel.

More than two thousand people attended the service and thousands more tuned in for the live podcast. The ceremony drew attention since many of the speakers were current and previous NFL players from the New England Patriots.  The obvious question was how and why many NFL players were so close with the owner’s wife.

Myra Kraft was an incredible Jewish woman who spent her entire life supporting foundations and charities across the world.  Myra specialized in raising awareness and helping many charitable organizations with their missions and she ran more than a dozen non-profits in Boston alone, including Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston. Her tenure as chairwoman of the Boys and Girls Clubs was so successful that the organization waived their term limit for her. She was known for going above and beyond to help needy children across the city.

Many people don’t know this, but prior to Bob Kraft buying the Patriots, Myra vehemently opposed the acquisition. Her reasoning was that an NFL team would not bring about any good to the world. Bob made an agreement with his wife. Their agreement was that she would allow his purchase of the team if she could require every player on the team to volunteer at charitable organizations. Bob purchased the team and Myra oversaw that every player was contributing. She even helped NFL players give back in their hometowns by helping establish charities across the US.

Myra had a zero tolerance policy for any criminal misconduct. The most famous story that comes to mind to highlight this took place in 1996 when Bob Kraft drafted Christian Peter in the first round. Christian Peter was an honorable mention All-American with stellar performances as a Nebraska Cornhusker all four years of college. Unfortunately, Christian Peter had also been convicted 7 times in 8 years for various crimes prior to being drafted by the Patriots. Only a week after being drafted, Peter verbally and physically abused a woman and was convicted yet again.

Instead of requiring him to go through therapy and overlooking his off-field issues, Myra Kraft personally demanded that the team cut all ties with Christian Peter regardless of his talents and his value to the team as an NFL player. Bob Kraft did not even give it a moment’s thought and this was the first time in NFL history that a first round pick was waived by his drafting team.

Myra Kraft believed in giving back to the community. She cared deeply for those who needed her help and in my personal opinion was a true shining light to the world. Even though football is generally viewed as a violent sport, Myra was able to see the good that football could bring to the world around her and has set up hundreds of charities revolving around football. Arthur Blank, another fellow Jewish NFL owner, said that both Bob and Myra have “given the perfect example for the rest of us.” I agree with him; they certainly have.

Finally, I would like to thank a very close friend of mine for helping me research some of the background information of Myra Kraft.  This person has asked to remain anonymous and I will honor that request.

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