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Professor Henry Fischel (1913 - 2008)| 26 March 2008 | Indiana Daily Student

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  • Mata Kimasitayo
    http://www.idsnews.com/news/story.aspx?id=49906&comview=1 Professor remembered as ‘real treasure’ by co-workers, friends Faculty member started Jewish
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 26, 2008
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      Professor remembered as ‘real treasure’ by co-workers, friends

      Faculty member started Jewish Studies Program

      Sarah Brubeck | IDS | Date: 3/26/2008

      During his time at IU, professor Henry Fischel was responsible for helping
      start the Jewish Studies Program and the Department of Religious Studies. He
      also taught students about his experience in WWII Germany.

      Fischel, 94, died March 18 at Meadowood Retirement Community in Bloomington.

      “He was a magnificent teacher,” said Stephen Katz, associate professor of
      Near Eastern Languages and Cultures. “He loved his students. He marveled in
      the sake of learning. He knew something through and through.”

      In 1913, Fischel was born into a Jewish family in Bonn, Germany, and was
      eventually taken to a concentration camp. When Fischel began teaching at IU
      in 1961, he taught a variety of subjects, but used his experiences from the
      Holocaust in his teachings. He stressed the idea that there is no such thing
      as a pure race.

      “He talked about his experiences, but they were only experiences,” Katz
      said. “Many Jews were killed in the streets of Germany. He knew Nazis were
      looking for him. He was in a club for Jewish students at his school. He was
      afraid of getting his fellow students in trouble, so he marched to the
      police station to turn himself in.”

      He was eventually imprisoned in Sachsenhausen, a concentration camp in
      Germany. He got out of the concentration camp because of the intervention of
      the International Student Services which gave scholarships to students,
      including Fischel, to study abroad. The camp released Fischel to Scotland
      and he eventually became an ordained rabbi, Beth Shalom Rabbi Mira Wasserman
      said in Fischel’s eulogy.

      Because of Nazi threat, he escaped to Canada where he continued his studies,
      and eventually arrived at IU.

      “He was a great scholar of Jewish studies,” Wasserman said. “He was a real
      treasure. It was unusual to have someone with his history and depth of

      In 1970, Fischel worked alongside Andrew Mallor, an undergraduate at the
      time who is now a local attorney, to help form the Jewish Studies Program.
      They took surveys of students and faculty to see if there was a need for
      this program. The first meeting for the formation of this program took place
      in Fischel’s home library.

      “He was very passionate about everything he did,” Mallor said. “He was a
      great scholar. He had an interesting variety of things he was interested in
      and was the best at it. He was a renaissance man. I’m not sure we’ll have
      anyone else like him ever again.”

      Fischel also wrote many books, including the “First Book of the Maccabees.”

      “He was one of the ones who categorized the formation of Jewish studies,”
      Katz said. “He was the one who was the nucleus in which many Jewish studies
      classes were formed before there was a program.”

      During his life, Fischel was very interested in music. He was trained as a
      classical pianist and grew up in the same city as Beethoven and used him as
      an influence, Katz said. He was a boxer, and loved IU basketball even though
      he never attended a game. He was interested in current events throughout his
      life. He was an avid reader and read the Indiana Daily Student and other
      papers constantly. As he began to lose his sight, he relied on the radio to
      provide news, Katz said.

      “He was always a gentleman,” Mallor said. “He always made people feel
      comfortable around him. He remembered everything. I never left Henry not
      asking about my wife and children and my parents. His mind was amazing.”

      Copyright (c) 2008 Indiana Daily Student
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      Mata Kimasitayo


      Uns bleibt ein Erdenrest
      Zu tragen peinlich ...
      -- Goethe (Faust, Der Zweite
      Teil, lnn 11954 - 11955 )

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