Reviews in Brief

Harry Fischel: Pioneer of Jewish Philanthropy

FischelHarry Fischel: Pioneer of Jewish Philanthropy
By Harry Fischel
Ktav Publishing House, Inc.
Jersey City, 2012
569 pages

Some philanthropists do wonderful things by writing large checks to worthy causes. Harry Fischel did much more than that, and with his efforts, permanently changed the Jewish world. Fischel was a visionary and a leader. He saw communal needs and built infrastructure to meet them, including founding orphanages and Talmud Torah schools. He lobbied politicians—even the president of the United States—to alleviate the plight of immigrants. With his excellent management skills, he ran a massive, multi-year fundraising campaign to alleviate European Jewish poverty caused by World War I.

This autobiography, first published in 1928, tells the extraordinary life story of Harry Fischel who lived during the first half of the previous century. An Orthodox Jew, Fischel demanded kosher food and traditional Jewish education at communal Jewish facilities. He used his influence as a philanthropist to spread Torah Judaism, making a kiddush Hashem and generating pride for observant Jews. He reached across denominational boundaries in his charitable work but spearheaded Orthodox causes, most notably as a prime mover in the development of Yeshiva University and Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav. Harry Fischel’s memoirs tell the story of a man’s rise from poverty to wealth and his remarkable devotion to every Jewish charity of that time.

Rabbi Gil Student writes frequently on Jewish issues and blogs at He is a member of the Jewish Action editorial board.

This article was featured in the Summer 2013 issue of Jewish Action.
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