On November 26, Rabbanit Bracha Kapach passed away; somehow the news of her
death seems to have been swallowed up by other news items that same week. This
amazing and modest woman deserved the recognition she received in 1992 by the
city of Jerusalem (Honored Citizen) and the Israel Prize in 1999, the ultimate
recognition of her special contribution to society and country.
years earlier, her learned husband, the late Rabbi Yosef Kapach, had also
received this award, a unique achievement for a couple. During her life, Bracha
received 26 different certificates of honor.
Rabbanit Kapach was born in
San’a, the capital city of Yemen, in 1920. Her parents, the Zadoks, began
sending their daughter to deliver bread to the poor when she was eight years
old. This act made a deep and long-lasting impression on her; throughout her
life, she never turned away anyone in need and was adept at seeking them out.
Bracha was betrothed to her cousin Yosef at the age of 11 and gave birth to her
first child when she was 14. The couple made aliya three years later (she lost
one of her three sons en route, but is survived by one daughter along with the
An early encounter with poverty in Jerusalem, as mentioned in
the eulogy written by her granddaughter Einat Kapach (that appeared in Yediot
Yerushalayim) occurred while walking down the street and hearing a woman crying
out for food. She entered the abode, and after assessing the dire situation,
proceeded to feed and care for her.
She once discovered a woman whose
home was in shambles; she had not eaten for three entire days, nor had she
bathed. The rabbanit got help in order to empty the room of piles of debris and
clean it thoroughly; she made sure this woman was attended from that day
Einat’s most incredible story involves neighbors, an elderly couple
living in a tiny room with an outhouse in the courtyard. When the wife was
hospitalized with pneumonia one winter, their abode caught fire while the
husband was attempting to light a heater. The neighbors ran to the rabbanit,
screaming that her old people were aflame! Upon arrival, she discovered the man
lying in bed, declaring that he wanted to die. Bracha proceeded to extricate
him, battling the smoke, dragging him outside like a firefighter and saving his
After settling in Jerusalem, she initiated project after project.
One of her first centered on embroidery; she set up a boutique of sorts offering
dresses for brides. Her most well-known project, “Naomi’s Treasure” (her mother,
and later, her daughter’s name) was a clothing charity. An entire room of the
Kapach home was devoted to collecting, sorting and organizing used clothes
according to the needs of those lacking. Everything was done efficiently and
without fanfare; the needy were never embarrassed, always receiving whatever was
promised. She also married off innumerable couples and followed their personal
progress for years.
Moving into her neighborhood, Nahlaot, demanded
involvement in the community.
The rabbanit would appear at the door of a
new neighbor and explain that there were thousands in need of food for Shabbat.
One was expected to cook or contribute to this project every Friday. As Passover
approached, she went into high gear, having established a Passover provision
charity on her own over 50 years ago. Wine and matzot were distributed to
thousands, all engineered by this petite Yemenite powerhouse.
not afraid of anyone, not the seemingly tough kids in the neighborhood nor
school principals. She would start conversations with potential delinquents and
convince them to attend informal classes, or to return to school. She organized
classes for the poor and for the elderly, as well as summer camps for those with
She once explained that by 8 a.m. she finished all her
“work,” that is to say, whatever needed to be done in her house and for her
family: cooking, cleaning, washing, etc. By doing so, she considered herself to
be “free” all day. Her willpower and belief in altruism was
When asked if she was concerned that people might be taking
advantage of her, she shrugged, remarking that this was not her problem. They
would have to live with themselves; she gave to whoever asked her for
Her daughter told me that years ago, the rabbanit saw the local
women wasting their time in idle chatter, so she began inviting them to her home
for coffee and cake – which cleverly metamorphosed into weekly lessons. She gave
classes for women at two different synagogues every Shabbat that lasted for
years and, like all the impressive selfless acts that she initiated, made a deep
impression upon these women.
Ultimately, Rabbanit Kapach gave new meaning
to the expression “a woman of valor.”
Rabbanit Bracha Kapach officiated at the
wedding of this writer and her husband, Uri Melammed, and prepared their ketuba.
The bride wore the outfit provided by the rabbanit, worn at her own henna
ceremony 30 years before!
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