Setting the Bar for Engaged Philanthropy
By Helen Graves / Hall of Fame | November 1, 2007 | The Boston Herald | Women's Business News
Myra Kraft is truly setting an example for all of us to follow — or at least aspire to — with her self-prescribed
full-time role of engaged, strategic philanthropy and her acumen in solving critical issues by drawing in a
community of support.
The Robert and Myra Kraft Family Foundation donates millions of dollars to kids at risk, education and the
Jewish community — without paid staff and with a visible statement about the greater good.
Immediately upon the family’s purchase of the New England Patriots [team stats], she set up the team’s first
charitable foundation and serves as its president to be a regional resource in kids-at-risk, battered women and
medical types of issues.
As director, trustee and/or chair on countless boards and committees, Kraft is a deeply involved advocate who
rolls up her sleeves and gets things done here and in Israel.
For her broad vision, tireless commitment, hands-on action, thoughtful impact and true dedication to making the
world a better place, we name Myra Kraft our 2007 Hall of Fame Professional/Nonprofit honoree.
Kraft, you won’t find surprising, began her transcontinental philanthropy at the age of 5.
Fully aware in 1948 that her father was one of 28 in the U.S. to visit the displaced persons camps in Europe in
the aftermath of the Holocaust and then travel to Palestine, where hostilities had already broken out, she, too,
felt the urge to pitch in.
In afternoon kindergarten at the time, Kraft nee Hiatt rallied her Worcester neighborhood around the cause.
“I had been hearing about all of this, so one morning, I woke up and grabbed a paper bag. I started going door
to door, asking for help for the poor children in Europe. I came home with a sack of money. My mother was
frantic that I’d have to give the money back, but then the neighbors started calling. The money went where it
was supposed to go.”
Today, Kraft is chair of Combined Jewish Philanthropies and serves on the boards of The American Jewish
Joint Distribution Committee, Brandeis University, Facing History and Ourselves, Brigham & Women’s Hospital,
The American Repertory Theater, The Boston Foundation, and the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and
In 1995, she became the first woman to chair the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston. Her leadership there was so
effective that the board changed its bylaws so she could serve for more than one term.
With Kraft co-chairing the United Way’s Alexis de Tocqueville Society, which recognizes donors of $10,000 or
more, the few hundred donors have multiplied into 750 supporters contributing more than $14 million.
And she isn’t done with this effort yet. She has helped establish the goal of becoming the first de Tocqueville
Society in the United Way to reach 1,000 donors by 2010. No doubt about it, she’ll make that goal happen.
Additionally, when Kraft dedicates herself to an organization, it is not just to one committee or one role. At the
United Way, she is a board director, on the Executive Committee and on the Community Investments
Committee. In 2003, she co-chaired the annual capital campaign with her husband, Robert.
A board director at Brandeis University, her alma mater, Kraft most recently chairs the Students and Enrollment
Committee and sits on the Honorary Degrees Committee, Development Committee and the Nominating and
Even though she stepped down from the chairman’s role at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston in 2002, Kraft
is still tremendously involved, sitting on the board and serving as chair of the Development Committee, a co-
chair of the Major Gifts Capital Campaign and an ex-officio member of all committees.
Chair of Combined Jewish Philanthropies for the past two years, Kraft also co-chaired its annual capital
campaign in 2005. She sits on the organization’s Executive Committee and Strategic Planning Committee.
A board director for the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Kraft is a member of its Executive
Committee and vice chair of the Israel Area Committee.
As sole national chair of what is normally a co-chaired position for the United Jewish Communities General
Assembly, Kraft spent six months in 2000 organizing the annual meeting of 6,000 from Jewish federations all
across the U.S., Canada and Israel.
Asked why she does all that she does, Kraft replies, “I don’t know what else I’d do. I don’t like bridge.
Shopping’s fun, twice a year maybe. And I’ve met really wonderful people. My best relationships have been
built through working in different agencies, with different groups of people and the different professionals. I
have been so impressed by the quality and level of the professional people in Boston.”
Not only is Kraft exceedingly generous with her time, money and admiration of others, she is also thoughtful
about her philanthropy, ensuring the broader purpose.
Her philanthropic support of the Greater Boston Food Bank’s Kids Cafæcopy; through the New England
Patriots [team stats] Charitable Foundation, for example, brings kids’ hunger to light. “We try to get leverage
and make a statement,” Kraft points out.
The reasoning behind the family foundation’s support of a chair at Brandeis for Christian studies and chairs in
Jewish studies at Holy Cross and Boston College, Kraft says, is “we believe that understanding among
people, understanding people’s religions, is important.”
Her vice chair position on the Joint Distribution Committee’s Israel Area Committee has Kraft deeply involved in
The list of accomplishments can and does go on and on — the Kraft Family Blood Donor Center at Dana-
Farber Cancer Institute, the Patriots/Kraft $25,000 fellowships at Brigham & Women’s Hospital for the career
development of women junior faculty, honorary degrees from the University of Haifa and the Ruppin Academic
Center, both in Israel, to name a few.
Her main challenge, Kraft says, is “creating new things, always thinking ahead, and helping to think ahead and
then finding the resources.”
And her best reward? “Success, no matter how small or how large, is always a rewarding moment.”