Bernard Lander, ז”ל


I don’t believe that I will ever again meet anyone like Bernie Lander. I’ve met two kinds of people best described as bigger than life: those of huge vision, and those of huge accomplishment. Both are essential to a forward-moving community. Each adds an invaluable element to the full picture. Each kind usually has a deficiency. Those with the necessary vision are often incapable of translating that vision into a reality, and those who are builders and doers often narrow their vision to the job in front of them, and no further. Rabbi Dr. Lander was the only person I ever met whose creative imagination was enormous – and whose vision was matched perfectly by his performance. Somehow, he managed to make all the dreams come true. He talked big, but there was not gap between the talk and the walk.

The dimensions of his accomplishment are breathtaking. Starting from the ground up, he built a university whose scope and scale swamp those of much older institutions. Learning programs, academic programs, vocational programs, day programs, evening programs, undergraduate, graduate and professional schools, in New York, across the country, and in foreign countries – if it could be imagined, Bernie Lander made it happen. He faced many obstacles, in the form of nay-sayers and kana’im. He ignored both. (He can serve as a role model for standing up against the myopia of the zealots, and prevailing against the bunch of them.)

To me, one of his most admirable traits was concentrating so much of his energy on people who did not even affiliate with his world. Dr. Lander identified primarily with the Centrist Orthodox community, and served as an office of the OU for decades. (His son, however, the Rosh Yeshiva of Ohr HaChaim, learned in Brisk.) Yet the most important beneficiary of his vision is the American charedi world. Certainly the dynamism of the Touro institutions is one of the reasons why American charedim are not mired in the financial despair of their Israeli counterparts. When enough students on the right would entertain some form of higher education, but would not set foot on a secular college campus, he tailor-made programs that they would consider. If they demanded frum teachers, he got them. If they wanted separate hours for men and women (or even separate evenings, to insure no mixing), he provided that as well. He offered his programs in ways that yeshiva bochrim would be subject to the least amount of bitul Torah to take them. He provided training in the areas most suitable to frum family life. In time, he developed programs even in Israel, so that long-time learners who wanted to pick up a skill set could do so, without grating on their life style. Bending over backwards became a fine art to him, not an irritation.

It will take decades to fully grasp his impact. When Avraham Avinu planted an eishel/ tamarisk tree, Chazal see an allusion to its acronym: achilah shesiah, levayah, a place of food, drink, and accompaniment. Avraham provided for the material needs of the wayfarer – and then instructed them to regard the Ribbono Shel Olam as their benefactor, rather than himself. Taking up that theme, we must regard Bernie Lander as planting an entire forest. There are thousands upon thousands of people today who are able to support their families through the dignity of their work only because of the training that he made available to them. Their mitzvos are his.

He did not claim to be the Gadol Hador. He may, however, have truly been the Parnas Hador – with deliberate allusion to two nuances of meaning in the word “parnas.”

יהי זכרו ברוך

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Steve Brizel
5 years 6 months ago

One more comment-some of the RY, including R E Svei ZL, certainly were not pro-Touro. Yet, ask anyone who has a child in the Flatbush women’s division-there are loads of carpools of students from Lakewood, Monsey and other Charedi areas who indicate that the residents of these areas have voted with their feet.

Steve Brizel
5 years 6 months ago

Dr Lander ZL deserves much credit for creating and developing Touro College in all of its many locales and settings-whether Manhattan, Queens, Flatbush, Israel, Europe and Asia. Dr Lander ZL had the vision to develope different types of collegiate programs based upon the needs of a community, as opposed to YU’s then insisting on liberal arts, as opposed to such “Parnassah” programs as speech therapy, occupational therapy, accounting, business, etc as well as a great yeshiva for Bnei Torah who were in transit between yeshivos in Israel or in other similar situations without having to worry about such Kefirah and Pritzus both in and out of the classroom as well as a Makom Torah for Baalei Batim to learn Bchavusa, hear great shiurim and drashos on Shabbos Shuvah and Shabbos HaGadol from the RY. IMO, it can be well argued that YU set up a business school in reaction to the growth of Touro.

Rabbi Yosef Grossman
5 years 6 months ago

I enjoyed your moving article on the passing of Rabbi Dr. Bernard Lander Z’l. He truly was a man of great vision and accomplishment. One point I feel obligated to raise. You write “… Avraham Avinu planted an eishel…Taking up that theme, we must regard Bernie Lander as having planted an entire forest.” In line with the famous Gemora in Shabbos that “if the earlier generations were angels then we are humans etc.” we must conclude that as great as Dr. Lander was but Avrohom Avinu’s one tree certainly overshadowed Dr. Lander’s entire magnificent forest with all its splendor!

[YA – Thanks for making clear what was very much my intention in writing. I would not imply in any way that we could ever compete with the Avos and Imahos.]

5 years 6 months ago

Having davened with Rabbi Dr. Landers for mqny years in Forest Hills, at Rabbi Leifers shtibel, I can say thaut he was the epitome of Anivus, I was,(and always will be).impressed by the fact that, despite his tremendous accomplishments lem’an hak’lal he remained an Anav. Additionaly, my son learned in his son R’Doniel’s Yeshiva, and as a result is learning in Kolel in Yerushalayim.

L. Oberstein
5 years 6 months ago

“conflict of when Jews have to worry about their parochial concerns versus univeral justice concerns”. As it sasys in Pirkei Avos, Im ain Ani Li, Mi Li? If I am not for myself, who will be for me?. As one who is often accused of being a liberal , a very big insult in the frum world, I am still going to put Jewish survival before universal issues. I am not going to be like the Communist Jews who destroyed Judaism as a way for all men to be equal . We jews have done a lot for many nations and sometimes we have not been reciprocated, in most cases, we have not been appreciated when push came to shove. So, it is sad that some of the most virulent anti semites are found among that minority group we fought and died for in their struggle for equality. I am still for equality but have to keep a level head.