In the summer social circle of the Hamptons, philanthropist Maria Fishel is one of the key people to know. The East End is regarded as being among the most giving areas in America, especially during the lovely warmer months, when benefits and charitable receptions are plentiful. Maria and the Fishel family have hosted a number of events, whether large in scale or more intimate, on their 16-acre estate in Bridgehampton in support of a range of charitable endeavors.
Calling Bridgehampton home in the summertime since 2005, Fishel and her husband Kenneth have earned a reputation as being outstandingly generous, with impact-oriented fundraising that has helped benefit everything from cancer research to the arts. The Fishels help bring the great and the good of the East End together, by inviting others to open their hearts and wallets in support of several worthy causes.
It was not long after they built their Bridgehampton home that Fishel began hosting large-scale fundraising events. Through an East End neighbor, she was put in touch with the Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation. Shortly thereafter, Fishel would volunteer to host the Hamptons Happening — one of the most exclusive events of the summer on the South Fork, benefiting cancer research that they have now hosted for 10 years, helping to raise millions for the foundation and its work.
“We volunteered because we wanted to help raise funds for research. My father-in-law passed away too early because of cancer, so it is a cause that is very near to our hearts, and after learning of the Samuel Waxman Foundation, we felt compelled to help in order to make a difference for others,” Fishel says. “I am always looking to help people. Such as in this case when people are suffering from terrible diseases like cancer. It has been very fulfilling to support this cause and so many others.”
Fishel and her family take an impact-focused approach to philanthropy, supporting programs where funds can bring the greatest benefit to the in-need cause. Maria and the Fishels have also hosted events to benefit the Center for Jewish Life in Sag Harbor, and last year’s gala at their home, despite the challenges of COVID, raised $250,000 for this East End religious institution.
The Fishels have helped fund a housing building, The Chabad of Grenada, for medical students studying abroad on the Caribbean island of Grenada. Her family’s sizable donation, Fishel says, along with Rabbi Baruch Rozmaria of the Chabad Granada, will offer housing, community and services to medical students who are away from their families, in honor of Kenneth and Maria’s daughter, Melissa Fishel. Fishel’s son Bradley has also been intimately involved in the family’s various fundraising efforts.
“We want to help students who are missing home or struggling to find peace and feel that this building will help us do that,” Fishel says. ”It is now halfway complete and I am excited to go and see it in Grenada upon its completion in 2024.”
While philanthropy is her mission, Fishel also has a passion for fashion and entertaining. She has been featured in various fashion shoots.
“I love Valentino, all of my gowns he has designed,” she says. “His style and sophistication are very feminine and classic.”
The Fishels’ estate is also the setting for some of the Hamptons’ more exclusive events and parties. They have hosted Hamptons Polo, where for two Saturdays in July they host polo matches. Also, they will be hosting their July Fourth celebration Diamond on the Fourth, this year planned by the world-renowned event producer Preston Bailey.
“As an immigrant who came to the United States from Ecuador at age 21, this party will celebrate the freedoms of America,” Fishel says. “The party will be a fun night for everyone, with about 200 of the family’s closest friends in attendance. Preston Bailey is creating a fantasy land that honors our country. All attendees should expect a lot of exciting surprises throughout the evening.”
Fishel also enjoys the quieter moments spent in the embrace of nature. She has recently created a pine grove on her property, creating a one-of-a-kind tree sanctuary. Her vision for this sanctuary was driven by her desire to replenish the environment, as well as create a place for her to reflect and meditate.
“During the pandemic, we planted some 1,000 pine trees in the 2-acre spot, creating a small forest,” she says. ”The trees were small at first, but have already grown to nearly seven feet in height. This year, I am enhancing our initial efforts, planting some apple trees, pear trees and peach trees.”
“I love planting flowers and developing my garden,” Fishel adds. “I have beautiful hydrangeas, and I will be planting more colors this year to add to the blues, whites and pinks. I sometimes spend a full weekend working on my garden, but the beauty of the designs and the flowers make it worth it and are one of the main ways that I find peace when I am in Bridgehampton.”
For Maria Fishel and her family, the love of philanthropy is a lifelong affair that will benefit the East End for years to come. Fishel is on a mission to give, with the means to attract others to support her causes, and the ability to deliver a boost to the charities that she considers most worthy.
Todd Shapiro is an award-winning publicist and associate publisher of Dan’s Papers.