The Crowds Come Out to Celebrate the Class of 2017 Graduates of Touro’s Lander Division
Presidential Advisor Jason Dov Greenblatt Delivers Keynote
Friends and family members joined in a celebration for the 42nd Annual Commencement of Touro College on May 28, Memorial Day weekend, at the David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center.
592 baccalaureate degrees, along with 129 associate degrees, were conferred on candidates from Lander College of Arts and Sciences (LAS) in Flatbush, Lander College for Men (LCM), Lander College for Women (LCW), Machon L’Parnasa/The Institute for Professional Studies and The School for Lifelong Education (SLE).
LAS Men’s Valedictorian Simcha Borden spent five years at the exclusive Brisk Yeshiva in Israel before attending LAS. In his remarks he thanked the LAS faculty and praised the school’s academic rigor. He will be attending the Albert Einstein College of Medicine next year.
“Our challenge is acknowledging that this is only the beginning,” he said as part of his wide-ranging philosophical address that included a brief discussion of quantum physics, Socratic wisdom and the Talmud.
LCW valedictorian Meira Goldberg spoke about how students should face their future.
“True nobility is being better than your former self,” Goldberg explained.
LCM valedictorian Lippy Treitel spoke about Rabbi Akiva and how the sage’s example continues to guide the Jewish people.
Dr. Mark Hasten, Chairman of the Board, delivered a brief speech about his close friend, Touro College and University System founder and first president, the late Rabbi Dr. Bernard Lander.
“Touro College and University System is the largest producer of health education in the world,” stated Dr. Hasten, noting that Touro has five medical schools, two pharmacy schools and a brand new dental school. “This is what Dr. Lander built and we are building on this strong foundation.”
Dr. Alan Kadish, President of Touro College, spoke of the significance of Memorial Day and the gratitude the Jewish people have towards America’s armed forces. He also spoke of the challenges the students will face in the professional world.
“Each of you can make a difference to yourself, to your family, to klal yisrael and the world,” Dr. Kadish said.
Jason Dov Greenblatt, an Assistant to the President of the United States and Special Representative for International Negotiations, was the keynote speaker and recipient of an honorary degree. He was introduced by both Dr. Kadish and Rabbi Moshe Krupka, the executive vice president of Touro College and University System. Both men spoke of the contributions Greenblatt made on behalf of both the Jewish community and secular world at large—from his work with a Jewish youth organization to a popular parenting website he developed with his wife-- all while staying true and firm to his religious beliefs and commitments.
Rabbi Moshe Krupka called Greenblatt’s work an “ongoing Kiddush Hashem, a sanctification of God’s name.” Speaking to Greenblatt, Rabbi Krupka commended him. “You serve as a role model for Jewish youth as you maintain your Jewish identity while maintaining professional excellence in a secular workplace. You are the embodiment of universal Jewish values of integrity and humility.”
“You show that Torah study and Shmirat HaMitzvot is not a challenge to success in one’s career but the foundation to what one creates and achieves,” said Dr. Kadish.
After receiving his honorary degree, Greenblatt spoke about his own remarkable history and the unlikely journey he, the son of a Holocaust survivor and a Hungarian refugee, took to the halls of the White House.
A career or two after graduating New York University’s Law School, Greenblatt was recruited by the Trump Organization and spent twenty years rising up the corporate ladder until he became the Chief Legal Officer.
“None of us can predict tomorrow’s twists and turns,” Greenblatt advised. “What I would like to impress upon each of you today is the importance of keeping an open mind, embracing new opportunities and maintaining the willingness to reinvent yourselves and the resilience to do so.”
“When you find yourself in a comfort zone, that might actually be the right time to step out,” he continued. “When we challenge ourselves to take risks we avoid having to ask ourselves the two saddest words of the English language: What if?”
It was an especially important lesson for Greenblatt who said that he and his wife and children had to do a lot of soul searching about whether or not to accept his offer of working at the White House. After speaking it over with his wife and children, he realized they could not pass up the opportunity and, in fact, they believe he had an obligation to serve the United States.
“If we could help the United States, a country that has been so good to us and our families, how could we not step up and serve no matter the sacrifice?” he asked. “Others have sacrificed far, far more for our country.”
Greenblatt concluded his speech with some words of advice, an exhortation, and a blessing. “Don’t define yourself by your profession,” Greenblatt counseled. “Define yourself by how you interact with others and the differences you make in their lives. May you work very hard to make our world a better place.”