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Touro College founder Rabbi Bernard Lander, 94, dies

Rabbi Bernard Lander, the founder and only president of Touro College and an inspiration to faculty, staff, students and alumni, died Monday at his home in Forest Hills. He was 94.

All Touro classes and offices were closed Tuesday in his honor.

"A man like Dr. Bernard Lander comes along once in a generation, or perhaps once in many generations," said Mark Hasten, chairman of the board of trustees of Touro and a colleague of Lander who helped Touro expand internationally.

Starting with a single college of 35 students in 1971 in midtown Manhattan, Lander expanded Touro to 29 institutions, including a law school in Central Islip. Touro educates more than 17,500 students in undergraduate, graduate and professional programs in New York, California, Nevada, Florida, Israel, Russia, Germany and France.

He trained rabbis, doctors, lawyers, accountants, computer programmers and technicians.

Speaking in New York City in 2007 at Touro's 36th anniversary celebration, Lander said: "One should live a long life, but a life of meaning, purpose and creativity. This is the purpose of life and the purpose of Touro."

Lander was born in Manhattan in 1915 and graduated from Yeshiva College in 1936. He was ordained in 1938 and earned a doctorate in sociology from Columbia University.

In 1944 he began teaching sociology at Hunter College and served as a consultant to the New York City Youth Board. He also reorganized and developed graduate programs at Yeshiva University.

In 1948, Lander married Sarah Shragowitz. They lived in Long Beach before moving to Forest Hills, where they remained. They had four children. Sarah died in 1995.

Lander was appointed associate director of former New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia's Committee on Unity, where Lander promoted fair employment legislation and attacked discriminatory quotas in higher education. He served as a consultant under three U.S. presidents.

In founding Touro, Lander envisioned a network of Jewish-sponsored colleges that would combine liberal arts and sciences with Jewish studies. Touro College was chartered by the New York Board of Regents in 1970. Following the opening of its first college for men in 1971, a women's division was added in 1974.

In the late 1970s, a Flatbush campus was established, and in 2000, a new Lander College for Men opened in Queens. The college then organized sister institutions in Israel and Russia. Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center, now in Central Islip, was founded in 1980.

In 2009, Lander announced an affiliation agreement with New York Medical College, a 150-year-old institution in upstate Valhalla.

Lander is survived by his brother, Nathan, of Bergen County, N.J.; four children, Esther Greenfield of Monsey, N.Y., Hannah Lander of Manhattan, Debbie Waxman of Queens and Rabbi Daniel Lander of Kew Gardens Hills; and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

A funeral service was held in Kew Gardens Hills Tuesday, with burial at New Montefiore Cemetery in West Babylon.

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