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Fisher, Max M.


FISHER, MAX M. (1908–2005), U.S. industrialist and community leader. Fisher was born to Russian immigrant parents in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and was raised in Salem, Ohio. He attended Ohio State University on a football scholarship, but after an injury he worked his way through college and graduated in 1930 with a degree in business administration. He then moved to Detroit, where he entered the oil business. He was a pioneer in the development of Michigan's oil industry and in the successful introduction of new oil-refining processes in the 1930s and 1940s. Fisher helped found the Aurora Gasoline Company and was chairman of the board until 1957. He also dealt in finance and real estate and was a board member of various prominent corporations.

In 1954 he made his first visit to Israel. From then on, he spent much of his life raising money for the Jewish state. He was also credited with leading and reorganizing every major Jewish organization in the U.S. Fisher raised hundreds of millions of dollars for Israel as well as for many charities, the city of Detroit, and the Republican Party.

A leading figure in the Republican Party in Michigan, Fisher was also a member of the Republican National Committee. Long interested in urban affairs, he was chosen chairman of New Detroit, Inc., a commission drawn from the city's industrial and business leadership to cope with the problems exposed by the 1967 summer riots. Soon after President Nixon's election (1968), he was appointed special presidential advisor on urban and community affairs. Fisher was active in Jewish life, serving as president of Detroit's Jewish Welfare Federation and chairman of its Allied Jewish Campaign, as general chairman of the United Jewish Appeal (1965–67), and its president (1967–71). He was chairman of the national executive of the American Jewish Committee (1968–72). He also served as chairman of the board of governors of the Jewish Agency from 1971. During the era of the Six-Day and Yom Kippur wars in Israel in the late 1960s and early 1970s, he urged military support for Israel and discouraged imposed peace plans. Later, he lobbied on behalf of Russian Jews who wished to immigrate to Israel.

In 1993, Ohio State's business college was named the Max M. Fisher College of Business. Regarded as one of the premier management institutions in the country, the business college's campus was largely endowed by Fisher.

In 1999 the board of the L.A. Pincus Fund for Jewish Education in the Diaspora established the Max M. Fisher Prize for Jewish education in the Diaspora in honor of Fisher's 90th birthday and in recognition of his role in supporting the advancement of Jewish education around the world. Established in 1977, the Jerusalem-based Pincus Fund works to strengthen Jewish education in the Diaspora through support for new and innovative programs. Fisher served as the fund's chairman since its inception.

In 2004 the Detroit Symphony Orchestra opened the Max M. Fisher Music Center performing arts complex. Fisher donated $10 million to the building, which is nicknamed "The Max." At age 96, Fisher was listed by Forbes magazine in 2004 as the oldest member of the Forbes 400, the list of the 400 wealthiest people in America.

add. bibliography:

P. Golden, Quiet Diplomat: A Biography of Max M. Fisher (1992).

[Hillel Halkin /

Ruth Beloff (2nd ed.)]

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