web analytics
September 3, 2014 / 8 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (L) visits the JewishPress.com booth at The Event. And the Winners of the JewishPress.com Raffle Are…

Congratulations to all the winners of the JewishPress.com raffle at The Event



Title: Harry Fischel: Pioneer of Jewish Philanthropy: Forty Years of Struggle for a Principle and the Years Beyond


book-harry-fischel

Title: Harry Fischel: Pioneer of Jewish Philanthropy: Forty Years of Struggle for a Principle and the Years Beyond
Author: Goldstein, Fischel, and Reichel
Publisher: KTAV, 511 pages

 

The Jewish people have been blessed with a plethora of biographies and memoirs about our rabbis, educators, philanthropists and community leaders. Unfortunately, many that were published in previous generations have been lost to history, and the impacts that many noteworthy individuals had on our people have been largely forgotten. One such book that could have fallen into this category is a biography published in 1928 entitled Forty Years of Struggle for a Principle about the life of Harry Fischel. With a grant from the Harry and Jane Fischel Foundation, KTAV Publishing House has published an augmented and updated edition of the original biography entitled Harry Fischel: Pioneer of Jewish Philanthropy: Forty Years of Struggle for a Principle and the Years Beyond.

The original biography was edited by Fischel’s eminent son-in-law, Rabbi Herbert S. Goldstein, of blessed memory, when Fischel was 63. Fischel later added a continuation, more than a decade later, in his own words. Additional information was added and edited this year, primarily by one of Fischel’s great-grandchildren, Rabbi Aaron I. Reichel, Esq.

Harry Fischel was a household name in Jewish communities throughout the world during the first half of the previous century, as perhaps the premier or prototype Orthodox Jewish philanthropist. Fischel was so highly regarded that when he was visiting a town in Lithuania a few miles from where the foremost sage of the time known as the Chofetz Chaim lived, the rabbi, then 86 years of age, sent a bus filled with students to meet him at the train station, personally came out to greet him and escorted him to his home and through his Yeshiva.

Who was this man and what made him so unique that Israel’s first chief rabbi, Abraham I. Kook, as well as Americans and Europeans of all strata of society, considered him America’s top Orthodox philanthropist? Harry Fischel was born in Meretz, Russia. The last words uttered by his parents before he set sail for America at 20 years of age were, “You are going to America, the land of gold. Don’t exchange your religion for gold.”

Fischel said these words always rang in his ears and guided him his whole life. After being rejected for jobs and losing work due to his keeping of the Sabbath, eventually he was able to get started in business for himself. The next few years of his life read like a rags to riches fairy tale.

Once established and a multimillionaire even in pre-inflationary currency, the amount of his fortune that he devoted to Jewish education, and the many other charitable institutions that he supported would make him a philanthropist for the ages.

But what made Fischel different from virtually all the other philanthropists of his era? The answer was the percentage of his time that he devoted to these charitable organizations and institutions. For many of his prime working years he was not active in business dealings but only community work. During these years, his expertise as an architect and his problem-solving thought processes led to a wide range of innovative ideas as he conceived, helped finance, build, and run diverse far-reaching organizations in America and beyond.

Among the organizations in which he played major roles were the Central Relief Committee during World War I, The Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) (co-founder and treasurer for over 50 years), the New York Hebrew Free Loan Society, the Uptown Talmud Torah, Beth Israel Hospital, and Yeshiva College (acting president, at one point). Perhaps his greatest achievement was during the Great Depression, when he single-handedly kept Yeshiva College from dissolution and oblivion.

Harry Fischel showed it is possible to simultaneously be rich without sacrificing empathy for others and piety to G-d. He convinced President William Howard Taft to allow HIAS to set up a kosher kitchen on Ellis Island to allow starving immigrants to regain their health and avoid deportation. He battled the most influential and powerful Jews of New York who ran the two Jewish orphanages at the time, to enable the children to observe the Jewish dietary laws and to give the children a religious education.

Harry Fischel was a man who put the community first and did whatever he could to make a difference in people’s lives. He remains a posthumous role model for any Jew who wants to be true to the Torah and who wants to see an ideal example of how a person can use money and influence for great things. This biography should inspire young and old and can make us all better Jews.

About the Author: Michael Lorch works in the financial services industry and lives in Woodmere, New York, with his wife and two daughters.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Title: Harry Fischel: Pioneer of Jewish Philanthropy: Forty Years of Struggle for a Principle and the Years Beyond”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Hamas's leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh (in blue shirt, center), benefitted politically - and in a dramatic fashion - from this summer's war.  Photo from Hamas victory rally, Aug. 27, 2014.
Gazan Deaths and Destruction Dramatically Drives Popularity for Hamas
Latest Sections Stories
LBJ-082914

What better proof do we need than the recent war with Hamas in Gaza, dubbed “Operation Protective Edge,” that transformed the pain and suffering of three families into a sense of unparalleled unity and outpouring of love of the entire nation of Israel?

Katzman-082914

So many families are mourning, and all along we mourned with them.

Astaire-082914

In addition to his great erudition, Rabi Akiva was known for his optimism.

Kupfer-082914-Chuppah

She told me that she was busy and that he could sit in his wet clothes for the rest of the day. It would teach him to be more careful.

What can we do to help him stop feeling so sad all the time?

Children with dyslexia or dysgraphia frequently have problems in social relationships.

Israel’s neighbors engaged in hostilities from the onset. The War of Independence was a hard-won battle. Aggression and enmity has followed for 66 years.

The contest will include student-created sculpture, computer graphic design, collage, videography, PowerPoint and painting.

David, an 8-year-old boy on the autism spectrum, recently attended a Friendship Circle event. As he entered he told his Dad, “I love coming to the FC programs ‘cause everyone loves each other.”

Goldsmith himself went on his own “voyage of discovery” to the places where his grandfather and uncle landed and were sent.

Frank proclaimed himself Zvi’s successor and the reincarnation of King David.

You’re probably wondering why the greatest advocate of fast and easy preps in the kitchen is talking about layer cakes, right?

Almost immediately the audience began singing and clapping and continued almost without stop throughout the rest of the concert.

As of late, vintage has definitely been in vogue in the Orthodox community.

More Articles from Michael Lorch
book-harry-fischel

The Jewish people have been blessed with a plethora of biographies and memoirs about our rabbis, educators, philanthropists and community leaders. Unfortunately, many that were published in previous generations have been lost to history, and the impacts that many noteworthy individuals had on our people have been largely forgotten.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/books/book-reviews/title-harry-fischel-pioneer-of-jewish-philanthropy-forty-years-of-struggle-for-a-principle-and-the-years-beyond/2013/01/16/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: