Machon Harry Fischel
The Harry Fischel Institute for Research in Jewish Law, located in the Bucharian section of Jerusalem and known in Hebrew as Machon Harry Fischel, was founded by Harry Fischel in 1931.
Fischel had originally planned a network of Talmudic Institutes, with branches in Israel, Eastern Europe and New York. He even purchased real estate in a prime location in New York, intending to use the annual rental income to fund these institutions. However, when the Great Depression wiped out the huge fortune invested in this property, Fischel decided to proceed with his plans on a smaller scale. He focused exclusively on the Jerusalem site, where the best Talmudic scholars were to be found.
Fischel established the Harry Fischel Foundation for the purpose of supporting the Machon. He had originally earmarked a relatively small sum of money to make use of in his old age. Upon seeing how transient one's material possessions are in this world, and how a financial fortune can disappear so quickly, he decided to utilize this nest egg for an eternal project – a Torah Institute to carry on his name.
The program enlisted the greatest minds of the Yeshiva world in Israel. These scholars pursued a unique course of study, applying the Talmudic basics to reach a thorough understanding of halacha – Jewish law. Machon alumni have served as dayanim – judges in the Jewish court system in Israel, as well is in many other Rabbinical positions throughout the world.
Today, the Machon continues to be funded primarily by the Foundation, supplemented by funds provided by the Israeli government allocated for higher Jewish Studies.
In addition to its leading role with its Dayanut advanced Talmudic study program that later served as a model for other schools, the Machon was also a pioneer in the area of Torah publications. In the mid-1930's, the Machon spearheaded the field of publishing advanced works produced by its scholars, at a time when such publications were almost non-existent, especially in Israel. The Research and Publication department of the Machon continues this tradition till today. Among its projects are:
- Halacha Pesuka – A comprehensive compilation of Jewish civil law based upon the works of hundreds of Poskim and Responsa throughout the generations.
- Tosafot HaShalem – A comprehensive collection of commentaries on the Torah written by the Tosafists – the great 12th-13th century scholars.
- Birkat Eliyahu – A commentary on the Vilna Gaon's writings on Choshen Mishpat – the Code of Jewish Law on civil matters.
- Rishonim and manuscripts – Advanced research on the works of the Rishonim – the early commentaries on the Talmud, with comparative studies of various manuscripts.
In a statement made by the Government Advisory Committee, which assigns funding to Torah Research Institutes, it was noted that the Torah publications that the Machon is involved with “are of paramount significance”. Additionally, the Committee found that “the Halacha Pesuka, Tosafot HaShalem and Birkat Eliyahu projects [are] of particular national importance."
The Machon houses Harry Fischel's beautiful, historic synagogue at which communal prayers take place daily as well as on Shabbos and Yom Tov. In addition, the Machon supports public study programs, both in the mornings for retirees and in the evenings for lay people from nearby neighborhoods.
The Machon also sponsors a professional, economically self-sufficient book bindery, which serves the binding needs of the Machon and provides employment for elderly as well as mildly disabled individuals.
80 years after its founding, the Machon continues to flourish as a direct result of the beneficence and foresight of Harry Fischel.