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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23 Responses

  1. Nachum says:

    Yehi Zichro Baruch.

    One factual point:

    “His son, however, the Rosh Yeshiva of Ohr HaChaim, learned in Brisk.”

    His son, like his father, learned in YU and got semikha from there (from the Rav). Neither were at all reticent to “admit” the fact.

    [YA – others have also written to point this out. There was nothing nefarious intended, and no attempt to co-opt the younger R. Lander for the charedi world. The comment was merely born of my personal observation that once a Brisker, always a Brisker.]

  2. Shalom Rosenfeld says:

    Good point, Nachum. But Rabbi Adlerstein wasn’t that far off the mark — several (most?) of Ohr HaChaim’s rebbeim did learn in Brisk in Israel (including co-Rosh-Yeshiva Rabbi Kraus), and R’ Daniel’s mehalech halimud is definitely Brisk.

  3. efrex says:

    What Rabbi Dr. Lander accomplished defies description, and his loss will be felt throughout the world. The man did more in each decade of his life since he was 20 than most of us will do in our lifetimes.

  4. Arnie says:

    R. Adlerstein’s columns consistently reflect not only cogency, but a certain bravery as well (recall as well his column on EJF). We all remember R. Elya Svei’s harsh criticism of Touro at the Agudah convention years ago. That R. Adlerstein would express his positive opinion of the institution in such glowing terms, especially in this venue, is a tribute to him. At the same time, for a primarily charedi website to allow such open expression of praise for Touro reflects the schizophrenia of our community when it comes to the permissibility/ necessity for higher education and parnassa.

  5. Nachum says:

    R’ Adlerstein: Sorry I wasn’t clear- I never meant to imply anything “nefarious” was intended- it was just a little alma mater pride asserting itself. 🙂 And nothing wrong with sharing that pride with Brisk, too, of course.

    Shalom: Nothing wrong with Brisk. Much of YU’s derech is also Brisk, for obvious reasons. 🙂

  6. Joe Hill says:

    Arnie: Eilu v’eilu. Rav Elya zt”l’s position on this may have differed from that of some other Rabbonim, nevertheless both are Torahs Moshe. Additionally, CC isn’t a “chareidi website”, so I’m not sure what the surprise is in expressing this view. And in any event, Touro doesn’t lack open expressions of praise within the Chareidi world.

    Nachum: The kind of “Brisk” of YU, is of a far different flavor than traditional Brisk.

  7. Charlie Hall says:

    Baruch Dayan HaEmet. Rabbi Dr. Lander will be missed.

    One comment about the attempt to create a frum college environment: Rabbi Dr. Revel had wanted to do that at Yeshiva College. But there were almost no frum PhDs in America back then. Fortunately things had improved by the time Rabbi Dr. Lander founded Touro.

  8. mycroft says:

    One can’t forget hat it was Dr. Lander who organized Orthodox Jewish participation the March on Washington of Dr. King.

  9. Jerusalem Mother says:

    My son is learning in Machon Lander in Yerushalayim, while he is in a charedi Yeshiva. As far as I’m concerned, Machon Lander is a lifesaver. It is geared towards Israeli Yeshiva students, (diffent than Touro in Israel which is for Americans), and fulfills the Israeli requirements for an instituion of higher learning, while maintaining a separate, frum campus. My son will IY”H be getting a degree that is recognized in Israel, and gain skills which will enable him to join the work force. He will be able to live his vision of being a frum working man.

  10. L. Oberstein says:

    “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)”
    “One can’t forget hat it was Dr. Lander who organized Orthodox Jewish participation the March on Washington of Dr. King.”
    Both are deserving of much praise. I am still confounded about how a small coterie of askanim who suppround certain rabbis have such clout. Is there no rabbinic leadership that can put an end to the massive chilul Hashem of the Torah being held hostage by people with an agenda who falsify and mislead very old rabbis. How can this exist? It is such a major chilul Hashem if one is a thinking person? How did we come to this?
    The Mrch on Wshington, I believe, was on a Shabbos , so it made participation difficult. Also, most orthodox Jews did not see the struggle for black civil rights as their fight. They either didn’t care or they were afraid to get involved.Racism is stil very real and many feel threatened by “the other”. The common denomnator of these two comments is that Dr. Lander represented an orthodoxy that was willing and able to engage with the world, not isolate itself.
    He certainly left behind a huge legacy. Yehi zichro baruch.

  11. Yerucham Roberts says:

    Nice article. I would like to see much more articles about working ballei battim. The Charedi community tends to lionize rabbis and rebbeim all too much, while ignoring the balle battim who not only support the community on their backs, but are increasingly just as learned and acomplished as professional rabbis. If you read some of today’s jewish newspapers, to judge from the photographs and from what is contained in the articles, orthodox life consists of nothing but rabbis and rebbes (and a few very wealthy patrons)Nothing against highlighting the lives of rabbinic figures, but our society must show that there is more to it than just rabbis. Otherwise we risk continuing the estrangement and disillusionment of so many of our number.

  12. Dr. E says:


    You make a good point. While not in Artscroll, Jewish Action had some features along the lines of what you propose and Rabbi Adlerstein had a hand in that. See

  13. Steve Brizel says:

    For more about R D B Lander ZL, see today’s JTA.

  14. HZ says:

    While Touro made a college education possible for some who would otherwise not attend a city university, it also put pressure on many centrist Orthodox to attend only Touro. And why is that bad? Think of all the money drained from Orthodox families who could have had their children receive a better education in a city university for much less money. Consider also today’s shidduch crisis and the shiduchim that could have come about by the natureal mingling of yeshiva boys and girls in a non-segregated university.

  15. L. Oberstein says:

    I have no idea where HZ is coming from ,but we all have our axes to grind and agendas. Secular college, which is less expensive also has frumkeit issues, too many to list. The orthodox rabbi at Johns Hopkins ahs told me of students from orthodox homes who are dating non Jews and others are away from mitzvah observance in one manner or another. On the other hand I have a niece who married a real life Gerrer Chosid who graduated from Touro, passed the CPA exam and is comptroller of a company. He would never have gone to Brooklyn College. Today’s shiduch crisis is across the board, it may be worse on the Upper West Side where many socialize in many ways and have a lot of trouble committing.
    Send your son to a non segregated university and he may come home with a nice Irish Catholic girl, or a very nice Reform Jewish girl whose mother was Irish Catholic. It happens all the time.
    Thank you giving me a chance to argue for frumkeit instead of criticising the extremists in our camp.

  16. M Segelman says:

    In response to comments #11 and 12:

    The Agudah published a book called “Pillars of the Daf” which gives short bios of many daf yomi Maggidei Shiur – both Rabbis and laypeople. I was impressed by it and felt that it helped fill the void you described.

  17. rachel w says:

    Since no one got around to pointing out Dr. Lander’s personal Chassadim and Tzedakah that he did, I will try to scratch at the surface of a deep, deep well of goodness. I know, personally, of a number of girls from the Former Soviet Union who arrived here in NY. He provided them with complete free scholarships at Touro, thereby convincing them to stay here to study, instead of returning home. Now, they are married to frum men, raising frum families, and the credit goes to Dr. Lander. May this be a Zechus for his neshama.

  18. mycroft says:

    “The Mrch on Wshington, I believe, was on a Shabbos , so it made participation difficult”

    The March on Washington took place on August 28, 1963 which according to my Outlook calendar was on a Wednesday. Full disclosure why I checked that fact-I remember Dr. Lander asking someone who certainly wouldn’t have attended on Shabbos to attend the March on Washington. The person asked what percentage of the marchers were going to be Jewish-when Dr. Landerreplied with a relatively high percentage-the person responded I’m in favor of the march but don’t feel that need more Jews and thus be such a high percentage of those marching. Interesting conflict of when Jews have to worry about their parochial concerns versus univeral justice concerns.

  19. L. Oberstein says:

    “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.

  20. kal says:

    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.

  21. Rabbi Yosef Grossman says:

    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.]

  22. Steve Brizel says:

    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.

  23. Steve Brizel says:

    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.

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