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Touro founder dies at 94

Touro College founder and President Dr. Bernard Lander, 94, of Forest Hills, led his school to international acclaim over the past four decades, those mourning his death last week said.

“I’ve lost a friend, I’ve lost a partner, I’ve lost the man who built this great monument to education, a citadel of learning,” said Dr. Mark Hasten, chairman of Touro College’s board of trustees and a colleague of Lander’s for many years. “A man like Dr. Bernard Lander comes along once in a generation or perhaps once in many generations.”

Lander, who died Feb. 8 of congestive heart failure at New York Hospital Queens, founded Touro College’s campus for men in 1971. The first graduating class had 35 members and under Lander’s tutelage the college expanded to educate more than 17,500 students, men and women, at sites throughout the world and country, including Israel, Russia, Germany, France, Flushing, California, Nevada and Florida.

Touro College was formed to teach Jewish and secular students in the same place.

“Dr. Lander was a social scientist and educator, an ordained rabbi and pre-eminent leader in the Jewish community and a pioneer in Jewish and general higher education,” the college said in a statement. “His record of achievements in creating and building new educational institutions was unparalleled.”

Lander worked in his characteristic manner until his final days, conducting meetings in his conference room at Touro’s central office on West 23rd Street while taking calls on his cell phone and receiving a nearly endless stream of visitors, college officials said.

“Although I was only able to work with Dr. Lander for a few months, I was overwhelmed by his talent and his passion for education and for fellow Jews,” said Alan Kadish, who joined Touro as senior provost and chief operating officer in September 2009. “He was a unique leader who carried forth a vision that built Touro into a remarkable institution.”

Lander always emphasized the need to educate people of all backgrounds, whether they were Jewish, non-Jewish, immigrants or longtime residents.

“We have a responsibility to the needs of the world to serve humanity and society,” Lander told The Jewish Week in a 2006 interview. “And so as we build Jewish institutions, we are also building general institutions, irrespective of the background” of the student.

Lander was born in Manhattan on June 17, 1915. His parents, David Lander and Goldie Teitelbaum, immigrated to the United States from Poland. He and his two siblings grew up in lower Manhattan, where his father worked in the garment industry.

The educational leader spent his adult life in Forest Hills, where he lived with his wife, Sarah Shragowitz, until her death in 1995. They raised four children in the borough.

Lander served as president of the Queens Jewish Center in 1950 and co-founded Yeshiva Dov Revel, a major day school in Queens.

Among his many accomplishments, Lander was a member of the President’s Advisory Committee on Juvenile Delinquency and Youth Crime in the Lyndon B. Johnson and John F. Kennedy administrations.

Lander is survived by his brother, Nathan, and his four children — Esther Greenfield, Hannah Lander, Debbie Waxman and Rabbi Daniel Lander — as well as many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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