Philanthropist Myra Kraft, the wife of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft has died.
Kraft died Wednesday following a long battle with cancer, according to an announcement from the team. She was 68.
She was the president and director of the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation and trustee of the Robert K. and Myra H. Kraft Foundation, which she started after her husband bought the team in 1994. Kraft served as chair of the board of directors of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies, Boston’s Jewish Federation, and also on the boards of the American Repertory Theatre, United Way of Massachusetts Bay, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and Brandeis University.
In 2003, Boston Magazine named her one of the 20 most powerful women in Boston.
Kraft gave millions of dollars in philanthropic gifts to causes in the arts, education, women’s issues, health care, religion, American and Israeli issues and sports.
Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to Washington, expressed his condolences. "Myra was a true daughter of Israel, a tireless defender of the Jewish State and pillar of the Jewish people worldwide," he said.
Kraft was not a football fan at first, but taught herself the game and became one of its most ardent fans, according to the team’s statement.
Kraft used her own battle with cancer to help launch the NFL’s "Kick Cancer" campaign last fall and she helped fund the Kraft Family Blood Donor Center at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. During the past season, the Patriots dedicated their home games to the campaign.
"As a lay leader, she was an amazing role model," said Carolyn Starman Hessel, director of the Jewish Book Council, where Kraft was a longtime board member. "She was so supportive — not just financially, but as a mentor as well."
Kraft twice served as co-chair of the annual campaign for the CJP, Boston’s Federation, and CJP President Barry Shrage said her leadership "was instrumental in many of our greatest campaign and programmatic achievements. With Myra’s guidance, we developed an innovative Strategic Plan and created the fastest growing campaign in the nationwide Federation system.
"Her acts of gemilat chasadim [individual, anonymous, personal acts of loving kindness] were an essential part of who she was as a person," he added. "No one in need was turned away."
The Krafts have given millions of dollars to the Kraft Stadium for American football in Jerusalem.
"We are all heartbroken," the team statement said. "The global philanthropic community and the New England Patriots family have suffered a great loss."