Max M. Fisher

“We are all trustees of our Jewish heritage . . . with an obligation to cherish it, improve it and guard its future.” – Max M. Fisher  1908-2005

Introducing the Max M. Fisher Archives,
Introducing the Max M. Fisher Archives,

Few people have played a larger role in business, world politics and community service than Max M. Fisher. His prominent leadership roles won him the title of the Dean of American Jewry.  Without question, he was one of the great historic figures, not only of Detroit, but of the nation, Israel and the world. He was a trusted adviser to many U.S. presidents and, in his capacity as Chairman of the United Jewish Appeal and later the Jewish Agency for Israel, he championed and defended Israel.

The story of a respected leader, the legacy of a world citizen.

Max not only was a historic figure, he was meticulously organized and maintained a  remarkable library, worthy of public exhibition. Drawing upon his vast collection of photos, videos, articles, letters and personal correspondence, the Max M. Fisher Archives now offers a  fascinating interactive journey through his life and times at

Max Fisher with former Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, 1972
Max Fisher with former Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, 1972

“Max Fisher has left us a legacy of his monumental achievements. The foundation that he and his wife, Marjorie, have established carries forward his philanthropic vision through humanitarian works,” states Sharon Alterman, Director of the Leonard N. Simons Jewish Community Archives. “His collection of documents recently was put on deposit at the Reuther Library of Labor and Urban Affairs on the campus of Wayne State University where the Max M. Fisher Archives already is gaining the attention of academics and scholars.”

Max Fisher at the White House, September 1990
Max Fisher at the White House, September 1990

The Max M. Fisher Archives website includes:

– An interactive timeline of his 96 years

– An online resource center that offers a searchable database including more than 700 photos, video clips, letters, documents, newspaper articles, awards and other archival material chosen to represent the legacy of Max M. Fisher

– Four original videos focusing on the qualities Max was known for: Wisdom, Generosity, Service and Leadership.  Each is a brief documentary describing a watershed event in his life – one that shaped the course of local history and world Jewry.

Max Fisher at home July 10, 1998. Detroit News photo by Jack Gruber.
Max Fisher at home July 10, 1998. Detroit News photo by Jack Gruber.

“The Quiet Diplomat,” Max Fisher defined leadership

Max (the M. stands for Martin) Fisher was born in Pittsburgh, spent his early years in a small town in Ohio, but Detroit was his home for nearly three quarters of a century. A self-made man, “made-in-Detroit,” Max built his business in oil, real estate and stock investment. A visionary, an astute fundraiser and community builder, Max was “the Quiet Diplomat,” respected across a wide political spectrum from Washington to Jerusalem. For more than five decades, Max made his mark on nearly every major undertaking in which the Jewish community has been involved.

The Max M. Fisher Federation Building, the Max M. Fisher Music Center, the Max M. Fisher World Headquarters of The Jewish Federations of North America in New York City, the Max M. Fisher College of Business at Ohio State University – these are but a few of the organizations dedicated in his name, and standing as towering tributes to his service and financial commitment to Jewish and secular community.

“To those who knew him, Max was the ultimate Jewish leader and to this day he is our standard bearer for tzedakah – Jewish responsibility and tikkun olam – repairing the world,” observes Federation Chief Executive Officer Scott Kaufman. “Overseeing the website in its development was like watching a house being build. It was a thrilling process to see his story unfold and come to life. And now it’s a gift that we all can visit and share.”

A website to visit, browse and learn

The website, The Max M. Fisher Archives – The Story of a Respected Leader, The Legacy of a World Citizen was designed and developed by Tim Songer and the creative team of Interactive Knowledge. It draws upon the documents in the archives; the manuscript of Peter Golden, author of The Quiet Diplomat,The Biography of Max Fisher; and comprehensive interviews conducted by John Owens of the Mort Crim Company in preparation for a full-length documentary about the life and times of Max M. Fisher. Consultation and archival assistance was provided by the Fisher Foundation, the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit and the Leonard N. Simons Jewish Community Archives.

“Our entire staff was inspired by this project and hopefully it shows in the final product,” states Tim Songer, President and Lead Consultant of Interactive Knowledge. “Max Fisher’s genius was working behind the scenes. His name is not well known to the public, but when you read his story in depth, you realize he is someone to be celebrated. The archives housed at the Reuther Library are a treasured resource for those who take a deep dive into the research.  I doubt we used even 1% of what was available.”

Based in Charlotte, North Carolina, Interactive Knowledge is a leader in the development of educational websites that engage visitors with outstanding visual design and intuitive interfaces. Their clients include Smithsonian Institution, Whitney Museum of American Art, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, PBS, National Geographic, the U. S. Department of Education and the Fetzer Institute.

 To explore the Max M. Fisher Archives, visit