The Touro College community gathered at Yeshivas Ohr Hachaim on Motzaei Shabbos, January 25, to commemorate the fourth yahrzeit of Rabbi Dr. Bernard Lander, founder and first president of the Touro College and University System.
Dr. Lander was a remarkable scholar and community leader whose great strides and foresight in the arena of education allowed Touro to become the successful institution it is today, with 32 schools in 5 countries. For the better part of seven decades, Dr. Lander met and advised mayors, governors, and presidents. Of his countless accomplishments, he was most proud that not only did he provide opportunities for those who lacked, but that he was able to create mosdos that strengthened limud ha’Torah.
Featured speaker Rabbi Nosson Scherman, shlita, the general editor of ArtScroll/Mesorah Publishing, discussed a story in Bereishis to illustrate the accomplishments of Dr. Lander. He said that when Pharaoh asked Yaakov Avinu how old he was, the 130-year-old Yaakov answered, “Few and bad have been the days of the years of my life and they have not reached the lifespans of my fathers.” Rabbi Scherman said that, according to Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch, Yaakov responded in this way to demonstrate that even one who has lived for many years may not have many days in his life in which he’s made a difference.
“Every day of his life mattered to Yaakov Avinu,” he said. “Rabbi Dov Baer Lander lived every day of his life, a long, long life, and to the last day he was dreaming and thinking and planning and doing and building and accomplishing. No day was wasted.”
Rabbi Scherman noted that Dr. Lander established Touro so that the Jewish community could operate within the secular world without having to sacrifice their Yiddishkeit. “He was here to provide Jewish men and women with a dignified parnassah so that they could remain shomrei Torah and mitzvos without compromise. That was goal,” said Rabbi Scherman during his speech, entitled, “Dr. Lander: A Man Shaping an Era.”
Rabbi Doniel Lander, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Ohr Hachaim, and Dr. Lander’s son, talked about the principles involved with “Im kesef talveh,” “If you should lend money,” which was read from Parashas Mishpatim that morning. He said that lending money is considered a greater form of chesed than tzedakah because it spares the poor person from embarrassment. The Torah, he said, is teaching a lesson that the true mitzvah is not in the amount of money one gives to a poor person, but rather the rachamim that motivates him in the first place. Rabbi Lander said that it was that rachamim that pushed his father to create Touro.
“My father, alav hashalom, devoted his life to the needs of Klal Yisrael,” he said. “Although he was a very generous man personally, his greatest form of tzedakah was to offer the gift of dignity to thousands of mishpachos that could not obtain parnassah in the system before the establishment of Touro.”
Rabbi Lander recounted a story about his father, saying that several years ago Dr. Lander met a Jewish man while he was on a trip to Moscow. They talked for some time and at the end of the conversation Dr. Lander asked the man to call him when he came to the U.S. 15 years later, the man approached him and Dr. Lander immediately asked why he never called.
“This is not simply to say that my father had a good memory, although he did,” said Rabbi Lander. “But it was because he cared. This fellow needed his chesed and my father cared about him.”
To commemorate Dr. Lander’s third yahrzeit a year ago, Touro released Dr. Lander’s biography, The Lander Legacy: The Life Story of Rabbi Dr. Bernard Lander, by Peter Weisz (Ktav Publishing House). The book begins with the story of David and Goldie Lander, both European immigrants to the U.S. The book describes the Touro founder’s early years as a young rabbi in Baltimore, his numerous accomplishments and the experiences which convinced him of the need to create great yeshivos and academic institutions under Jewish auspices.
Speaking just after Shabbos Mevarchim Adar, Rabbi Moshe Krupka, executive vice president of Touro College, said that Haman HaRasha wanted to, chas v’shalom, destroy the Jewish people in the month of Adar because it is a time of hester panim. Rabbi Krupka quoted Rabbi Gedaliah Schorr, who said that Haman did not realize that there are certain shepherds in every generation who see the adversity and inspires them to motivate Klal Yisrael and bring about a yeshuah.
“This evening we are here to remember such an individual who saw choshech and brought light to Klal Yisrael,” he said.
At the time of his passing in 2010, Dr. Lander had achieved more in one lifetime than most could in ten. While advocating for and working on behalf of Klal Yisrael, he too was able to impact on so many diverse communities, cultures, and causes across New York and the country, he helped Touro evolve from a tiny school with 35 students in the first graduating class to a flourishing international institution serving over 19,000 students worldwide.
At the start of the evening, Moshe Lander, Dr. Lander’s grandson, was mesayem Maseches Yevamos as a tribute to his grandfather. v