Bernard Lander Z”L – Touro College – A Man of Vision

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Last week, on February 8th, 2010, we lost one of our leaders in the Jewish community, Dr. Bernard Lander. Many stories about him right now are vague and over-exaggerated, so I therefore want to clarify “all the facts” in order that his past reputation is done justice.

An ordained Orthodox Rabbi, Dr. Lander also held a Bachelors degree from Yeshiva University, and a Masters/PhD in Sociology from Columbia University. Having served for many years as a professor at Hunter College/CUNY, he later served as a member of the Board of Directors at YU.

To this author’s understanding, Dr. Lander had never served as the dean of YU’s Belkin’s Graduate School. In fact, during the mid-1960’s, Dr. Belkin himself told Dr. Lander that while he was one of two candidates worthy of succeeding as dean, the other candidate will succeed as Dean, and that he, Dr. Lander, never will. A distraught Dr. Lander told him, “if you won’t let me become dean, then I will build my own school! Who says YU has to be the only one to do so?” That’s how big his dreams were, and his determination and foresight won him government funding to build a campus.

When Dr. Lander opened the very concept of Touro College in 1969-1970, he opened it during the hippie period. This was his perfect opportunity. Since many students back then, especially Jewish students, were rather lazy and used Vietnam, rough upbringing from holocaust-survivor parents, etc. as excuses for their academic problems, Dr. Lander was able to essentially open up a “YU-lite” (example, only 6 Judaic studies credits) for those not wanting a rigorous workload, and this campus was opened in 1971.

Early on, Dr. Lander brought in a former employee of YU, Eugene Hollander. Eugene was simultaneously involved in the nursing home business, and as it was, performed various illegal activities there. YU, seeing right through Eugene early on, fired him and he then joined Touro. Being that Eugene was caught with illegal activities, he brought Touro down since Touro, by extension of Eugene, was involved with nursing home business.

Touro at its earliest times, was on the brink of bankruptcy, since at this point who now would want to fund a school such as Touro college, which in it’s first couple years already had a bad name?

The answer was simple. Open up new campuses! Touro opened four new non-Jewish programs with which to raise money from, in order to redirect funding to the Jewish campuses. These four campuses were:

1. EPANA– the campus for Russians–todays SCAS–a small russian guy was running it.

2. CSP–Community Service Program–located in Harlem, mainly for Puerto Ricans and shvartzahs wanting to go into education. An Irish guy ran it: Mike something or other.

3. RAP–Retired Adult Program–biggest joke, taught at nursing homes to 101 year old patients. They were enrolled full time so Touro could get govt funding. Reason being, if they were enrolled part-time, there would be no funding provided. If person died mid semester, Touro still got money.

4. EXCEL– Like CSP, also was for Puerto ricans and shvartzahs. Some Goy by the last name of Mulholland ran it.

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Anyway, with the new funding, Dr. Lander was able to open up the girls campus in Manhattan, which then branched out to Brooklyn at 18th Avenue and East 3rd st in a public school. This essentially was the first Touro in Flatbush! Robert “Bob” Goldschmidt was dean there, and still is, on the Avenue J campus. This was in response to many Bais Yaakovs prohibiting college with “Treife courses.” Touro was also badmouthed in Boro Park and Flatbush, but girls went anyway.

The Boys campus soon was established in the same public school for Yeshivish guys–Torah Vodaas, Chaim Berlin, etc. Mir was the only one which didn’t allow boys to go to Touro at the time! At any rate, Touro then decided to schedule it as follows: Mondays-Wednesdays for boys, Tuesdays-Thursdays for girls.

In the early 1990’s Touro moved its Flatbush Jewish campus to Avenue J, later on opened up the esteemed Lander College for men, and in the meantime, opened up different campuses around New York City and the world for all ethnicities, New York City totaling over 35 campuses alone. Now, Touro boasts Masters and PhD programs for both Yeshiva students and regular students alike.

Through thick and thin, Dr. Lander indeed was a man of vision. Despite initial setbacks, he made Touro what it is today. It became so strong that Touro’s reaction to a recent cash for grades scandal in 2007 didn’t change any of Touro’s operations. Students were still able to study, pass/fail exams and assignments, and graduate, business as usual.

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