Tag Archives: Charity

Jew of the Week: Bracha Qafih

“Grandmother of Israel”

Rabbanit Qafih

Rabbanit Qafih

Bracha Qafih (1922-2013) was born in Yemen to a traditional Jewish family. To save a young orphan boy from being taken away by the Muslim authorities, she was married to him at the age of just 11. The boy grew up to be Rabbi Yosef Qafih, better known as Rabbi Kapach, one of the greatest Yeminite Jewish religious leaders, and a judge on Israel’s Rabbinical Supreme Court. Rabbanit Qafih had three kids by the time she was 18, and immigrated to Israel soon after with her family. Settling in Jerusalem, she opened up her own embroidery business, which grew quickly to employ over 50 women. Qafih then devoted her time to charity work. Each holiday, she would organize food packages for the impoverished of the city, distributing them from her own home with the help of student volunteers. Eventually, she ran a food bank that provided regular sustenance to over 5000 people, an endeavour she oversaw for over 50 years, often putting herself in personal debt. She also ran a gmach for wedding gowns, where poor families could borrow wedding dresses for free, and organized a summer camp for disadvantaged children. She made sure that orphans could have proper bar mitzvahs, and advised countless people in need, including prostitutes and drug addicts, many of which credit her with helping them overcome their challenges. Her inspiration was her grandfather, who took her with him to distribute food to the poor in Yemen from the time that she was just 6 years old. Rabbanit Qafih continued her charity work into her old age, despite her poor health. She was known to already be preparing meals by four in the morning. Among many other decorations, in 1999, Rabbanit Qafih was awarded the Israel Prize for her immeasurable contributions to charity and Israeli society at large, where many affectionately referred to her as their grandmother.

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Words of the Week

“It’s not charity. It’s my responsibility.”
– Rabbanit Bracha Qafih

Jews of the Week: Doris and Donald Fisher

The Gap

Doris and Donald Fisher (Courtesy of californiamuseum.org)

Doris and Donald Fisher (Courtesy of californiamuseum.org)

Donald George Fisher (1928-2009) was born in San Francisco to a middle-class Jewish family. Soon after graduating with a business degree from UC Berkeley, he married Stanford graduate Doris Feigenbaum (b. 1932), one of the first women to be granted a degree in economics. In 1969, Donald had a hard time finding a good pair of jeans, and decided to open up his own clothing store where shopping would be both easy and cool. His idea was to sell jeans and music, and he wanted to call his store ‘Pants and Discs’. His wife suggested to call it ‘the Gap’ (short for “generation gap”). The couple raised $63,000 and opened their first store in San Francisco, selling Levi’s jeans and music records. An instant hit with young people, they made $2 million in their first year alone. By 1973, they had expanded their merchandise, opened up 25 stores, and went public. In the 80’s, the company bought out other brands like Banana Republic, and started a new value store, Old Navy. The Fishers are credited with inventing the “specialty retail” store concept, and Gap remains the largest specialty retailer in the US. It now has nearly 3700 stores in 90 countries, with over 150,000 employees. Donald and Doris maintained tight control of the company for four decades. In 2009, Donald sadly passed away after a battle with cancer. That same year, Doris stepped down as director of the company. She has since served as a director of Stanford University, is still the major shareholder in Gap, and has a net worth of over $3 billion. She has been ranked third in Forbes’ list of America’s Self-Made Women. More importantly, the Fishers are noted philanthropists, with their foundation donating over $20 million each year to educational organizations like Teach for America and KIPP (‘Knowledge is Power Program’), which directly benefits over 32,000 low-income children. The Fisher family are members of Congregation Emanu-El, one of California’s oldest synagogues.

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Words of the Week

Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.
– Mark Twain