Jane Brass Fischel
1865 – 1935
An outstanding communal leader in New York City’s Orthodox Jewish community, Jane Brass Fischel was a generous philanthropist and active participant in Jewish communal activities. She was born in the Pale of Settlement in Russia on March 21, 1865. In 1883, she immigrated to New York City, where she earned a living as a dressmaker. She met and married Harry Fischel, also a Russian immigrant. Both were committed Orthodox Jews who shared the twin goals of serving humanity and advancing Orthodox Judaism in the United States.
When they married on November 26, 1887, Jane had saved $250; her husband had saved $47. The Fischels lived frugally, and both worked from dawn to dusk. Jane kept boarders, doing laundry, serving breakfasts, cooking and serving suppers, and packing lunch boxes. Harry worked long hours, and eventually became a successful real estate developer.
Four daughters were born to Jane and Harry Fischel, and Jane became an active volunteer and philanthropist in Orthodox Jewish organizations. She was supportive of her husband, and her charitable activities reflected their common values and ideals. She was active in women’s groups affiliated with men’s organizations in which her husband was a leader, as well as several important women’s organizations.
In 1906 Jane Fischel helped found the Home of the Daughters of Jacob, serving as vice president from that time until 1925. She was a founder of the Women’s Organization of Yeshiva College in 1925 and was vice president at the time of her death. She worked for Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun, the Hebrew Sheltering and Immigrant Aid Society, the Ladies Mulbish Arumim Society of the Uptown Talmud Torah, the Federation of Jewish Women’s Organizations, Beth Israel Hospital, the Hebrew Children’s Home, the Hebrew Day Nursery School of New York, the Relief Committee of the Joint Distribution Committee, the Federation for the Support of Jewish Philanthropic Societies of New York City, and Hadassah Council.
Jane Brass Fischel died on January 3, 1935. According to her obituary in the New York Times, more than a thousand mourners gathered on the streets near her apartment building on the day of her funeral. She was eulogized as “the combination of a perfect wife and mother and a communal worker who inspired others to follow in her footsteps.” Jane Fischel, beloved by family and community, devoted her life to tzedaka [righteousness].
AJYB 37:256; Goldstein, Herbert Samuel, Forty Years of Struggle for a Principle (1928); “Tribute by Throng Paid Mrs. Fischel.” NYTimes, January 5, 1935; WWIAJ (1928).