FOR THE AGES
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Max M. Fisher, 1908-2005
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The Jean & Samuel Frankel Center for Judaic Studies Presents
The Fifteenth Annual David W. Belin Lecture
in American Jewish Affairs
"Constructing Jewish Life in the
Age of Reproductive Technologies"
The behind-the-scenes details for a major funeral.
Associate Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
By examining the ways in which orthodox American Jews understand and
negotiate high-tech infertility treatments, Professor Kahn will illuminate
a new seam in contemporary Jewish life. Professor Kahn's lecture will
describe the ways in which orthodox Jews who seek infertility treatment use'
folk remedies, prayers, and high tech-assisted conception in conjunction;
how orthodox Jews use the internet to establish elaborate support,
information, and educational networks concerning infertility treatment;
how they have innovated a hybrid language for describing and explaining
infertility treatments that blends Hebrew prayers, Yiddish aphorisms,
English slang, gematria (numerology), and biomedical terminology; and
how they have created frameworks for unique professional collaborations
between rabbis, doctors, and clinic personnel in order to ensure that their
fertility treatments are conducted with strict attention to halakhic concerns.
Professor Kahn will suggest an analytic framework for understanding these
activities in order to gain insight into this unprecedented moment in the
history of Jewish conception.
Wednesday, March 16, 4:00 p.m.
The Michigan Room, Michigan League
911 N. University, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Public welcome. Reception follows lecture.
The University of Michigan, 3032 Frieze Building, 105 S. State, Ann Arbor, MI, (734) 763-9047
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nly minutes after a lengthy March
3 meeting to pre-plan an impor-
tant community event, David
Techner received a telephone call that
would launch one of the busiest weekends
of his career.
Beaumont hospice nurse Bonnie Topper
called Techner at Ira Kaufman Chapel in
Southfield to say that Max Fisher had just
died at his Franklin home. Techner had just
completed a 2 1/2-hour meeting with family
representatives Phillip Fisher and Mary
Fisher to plan funeral arrangements for
Techner is funeral director at Kaufman
and a friend of Phillip Fisher for 40 years.
They knew when the meeting began
Thursday morning "that death was near, but
not that it would be a matter of hours."
Techner and several members of
Kaufman's staff went to the Fisher home in
Franklin to remove the body. But the family
asked if they could do it. Rabbi Harold Loss
of Temple Israel in West Bloomfield said
prayers with family members and, using a
rubber "bed" used by the Chapel, they car-
ried Mr. Fisher's body down a circular stair-
case to a waiting hearse.
"With the family participating, it made it
quite simple," Techner said, "and dignified."
Kaufman Chapel's role included coordi-
nating the location, security and eulogizers
at Fisher's March 6 funeral at
Congregation Shaarey Zedek in Southfield.
Because the family had discussed their
wishes with Techner, "I didn't have to both-
er them anymore," he said. Over the next
three days, Techner was in near-constant
communication with Oakland County
Sheriff Michael Bouchard to discuss police
and building security for the funeral. The
sheriff "was nothing short of sensational,"
Techner said, adding that it was critical to
the Fisher family that people coming to the
funeral feel secure.
Techner arranged for 11 limousines and
five smaller cars to be used by the family
from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. "There were
a lot of family members, a lot of people
from out of town," Techner said. "There
were even a few 'just-in-case' vehicles —
in case someone needed to go to the airport
"We knew the location, the telephone
number and who was riding in each vehicle
at all times — just in case."
Techner received 22 requests from rab-
bis, Jewish Federation employees, digni-
taries and community members, asking to
participate in the mitzvah of taharah for Mr.
Fisher, the religious ritual of washing and
dressing the body before the funeral. But
the family did not want to ask the three or
four religiously observant people who nor-
mally do the taharah at
Kaufman to step aside
On Friday, many of
the Fisher grandchil-
dren and great-grand-
children met at
Kaufman Chapel to dis-
cuss Jewish burial cus-
toms. "It was a wonder-
ful meeting," Techner
said. "We discussed what you do, how and
why," adding that the youngest children
asked most of the questions.
Techner gave special praise to Rabbi
Boruch Levin of Hebrew Memorial Chapel in
Oak Park. "As soon as he heard that Mr.
Fisher had died, he called to offer help in
any way they could. He's done this before
— he's always there for us."
At Sunday's funeral, Techner had 10
Kaufman Chapel staff at Congregation
Shaarey Zedek and two on duty at the
chapel. Several funeral directors from other
facilities were also on hand.
Following the 90-minute funeral at
Shaarey Zedek, Fisher was buried at the
synagogue's Clover Hill Park Cemetery in
Birmingham. Fisher had a small plot at
Clover Hill, but 8-10 years ago, he decided
he wanted a family plot. The Fishers now
have one of the largest plots at the
On Monday, the day after the funeral,
burial and family reception at the Ritz-
Carlton in Dearborn, Techner said, "I feel
great. It's like we really did it. We're 'under-
takers,' but until you 'undertake' something,
you don't know if you'll pass the test.
"It was an honor [to handle the arrange-
ments for Mr. Fisher]. We came away from a
weekend of planning without any glitches."
Well, he admitted, there was one glitch.
Arriving 2 1/2 hours before the funeral
Sunday morning, he parked in Shaarey