Bob Kraft: New England Patriots’ Jewish owner

When the National Football League lockout ended this past August, Indianapolis Colts center Jeff Saturday praised Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots stating, “Without him, this deal does not get done, he is a man who helped us save football.” Now just six short months later, it is Kraft’s New England Patriots who are at the top of the very game he saved and set to take on the New York Giants February 5th in Super Bowl XLVI (46).

In professional sports many things change from year to year. Coaches, players and front office personnel come and go. However, in New England since 1994 there has always been one constant, team owners Robert (Bob) and Myra Kraft. As the Patriots head to Indianapolis for their sixth Super Bowl during his ownership, Bob Kraft goes with a heavy heart. Prior to the season Kraft was not only battling the players in a labor dispute, he was also holding onto his wife of Myra Kraft who was battling cancer, a disease that eventually took her life in July.

The passing of Myra Kraft seems to have been a rallying call for the Patriots organization from top to bottom.  All of the players wear a patch with the initials MHK on their uniforms. After his second quarter touchdown scored in Sunday’s game against the Baltimore Ravens, BenJarvis Green-Ellis, Patriots running back, touched the MHK patch, then his face mask and then pointed upward, a tribute to Mrs. Kraft. “She was always around,” Green-Ellis said. “She was a nice lady. She built this foundation from the ground up. She taught me about giving back to the community. Anytime I get a chance now, I want to go and give back to the children in this area and helping in the community.”

After punching their ticket to the Super Bowl, the Patriots with a 23-20 win over the Ravens; Mr. Kraft took to the podium set up in Gillette Stadium to receive the Lamar Hunt Trophy that is presented to the American Football Conference (AFC) Champion.  Upon receiving the trophy, Kraft took a moment to kiss his fingers and point to the sky in tribute to Myra. He said, “It was so I wouldn’t have to speak and start crying on national television.” Later in a post-game interview, Kraft said, “[There were] forces at work that’s beyond anything we can understand.” He added, “There are so many little things that happen during the year, when you think about it, just the little things that can go the other way. I’m so excited that we’re going to the big game. I still pinch myself thinking about it and I think of my sweetheart.”

The 48-year marriage between Robert and Myra Kraft has been one of philanthropy and tzedakah that crosses continents and has touched the lives of many on and off the football field.  The Krafts, who are Jewish and belong to Temple Emanuel in Newton, Mass., started the Passport to Israel Program with the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Boston. The program began as a unique savings plan to help parents send their children on an Israel experience during their teens. In addition, Bob Kraft has donated millions of dollars to start the Israel Football League and build Kraft Family Stadium in Jerusalem. At the same time, Myra Kraft helped to support and fund the Israeli Women’s National Flag Football Team. Together the couple donated more than $100 million dollars to a variety of charities focusing on education, athletics, women’s issues and Israel. In 2007 Bob Kraft donated $5 million to his alma mater Columbia University in support of their athletics programs, the playing field at Columbia’s Lawrence A. Wien Stadium at the Baker Field Athletics Complex was named “Robert K. Kraft Field.”

While Kraft has a stadium in his name at Columbia University and in Israel, it will be in Indianapolis and Lucas Oil Stadium that he will find out how the next chapter of the New England Patriots and the Kraft ownership will be written.  Win or lose, Bob Kraft is certain to handle the results with class and with Myra on his mind and in his heart.