It may not have been until she won the Israel Prize in 1999 that most of Israel learned of the remarkable works of Bracha Kapach, a diminutive old woman who ran a charity that helped thousands out of her Jerusalem home.
But for the unemployed, homeless, drug addicts, prostitutes and down-on-their-luck Jerusalemites who lined up at her door every week for handouts ranging from cash to chickens for Shabbat, Rabbanit Kapach was no stranger; she was their lifeline.
Kapach died Tuesday at the age of 90. She and her husband, the late scholar Rabbi Yoseph Kapach, remain the only couple ever to have both won the Israel Prize.
I profiled Kapach in 2007:
JERUSALEM (JTA) — On a quiet, little-known street in one of Jerusalem’s poorer neighborhoods, the line on Fridays begins to form as early as 6 a.m. outside the home of Bracha Kapach.
They come from all over Jerusalem, particularly in the weeks before Passover: men down on their luck, elderly women with meager pensions, street kids living from fix to fix, mothers with too many mouths to feed. Kapach treats them all the same. She hands them challahs or clothing or cash, wishes them a “Shabbat shalom” and sends them on their way.
This is how Kapach, a diminutive Yemenite octogenarian known all over Israel for her good works, has become a lifeline for some of Jerusalem’s neediest, delivering hope in the form of food packages and small kindnesses.
Kapach says it’s not charity; it’s her responsibility.
“How can a person sit at his Pesach table and not have helped someone else for the holiday?” Kapach says. “If I help God’s children, He’ll help me.”
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