Michael Oren, Former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., Addresses Touro Graduates at 40th Annual Commencement of Lander Colleges
New York, N.Y. – Touro College conferred Michael Oren, Ph.D., Israel’s ambassador to the United States from 2009 to 2013, with an honorary doctorate at the 40th annual commencement exercises at Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center on Memorial Day.
At the ceremonies, Touro awarded 699 baccalaureate and associate degrees to graduates from the Lander College for Men in Kew Gardens Hills (LCM); Lander College for Women-The Anna Ruth and Mark Hasten School in Manhattan (LCW); Lander College of Arts & Sciences-Flatbush (LAS, with separate men’s and women’s divisions); the School for Lifelong Education in Brooklyn; and Machon L’Parnasa-Institute for Professional Studies, also in Brooklyn.
In his remarks, Dr. Oren, now the Abba Eban Chair of International Diplomacy at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya at the Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy in Israel, and a contributor at CNN, warned that despite the ever-growing list of enemies calling for the destruction of the Jewish people, the greatest threat we face is the one aimed at our own narrative.
“Today the danger is from those who deny that there ever was a story at all,” Dr. Oren said. “They deny that our Temples ever stood in Jerusalem. They deny that the Holocaust ever occurred. And worse—they deny that there ever was or is a Jewish people.”
Dr. Oren said that as a boy he suffered from learning disabilities so severe that the future Israeli ambassador could only read a transliterated version of his Bar Mitzvah portion. Over the course of his life, he said, he has enjoyed much success and lived through heartbreak as well, referencing his sister-in-law, who was murdered by a suicide bomber during a visit to Jerusalem, and his son, who was wounded while serving in the Israeli army. But he said that his story, like that of the Jews, is about triumphing over tragedy.
“In each generation forces will arise that will attempt to end our story, to destroy our storytellers and to deny our story altogether,” said Dr. Oren. “But once again, they will fail. They will fail because of your successes, your faith and your courage. Your success is our success and in saying mazel tov to each and every one of you, I say mazel tov to the Jewish people everywhere.”
The program began with valedictories from four Touro graduates: Yehuda Lehrfield of LAS men’s division, who will attend the University of Maryland School of Dentistry in the fall; Aliza Batya Agress of LCW, an assistant editor of Hamodia; Aryeh Michael Ginsburg of LCM, who will attend the Albert Einstein College of Medicine; and Sara Chana Ackerman of LAS women’s divisions, who will continue her studies at the Touro College School of Health Sciences.
Dr. Mark Hasten, the chairman of the board of trustees of Touro College, then introduced Touro President and CEO Dr. Alan Kadish, who discussed the significance of ‘strength in numbers’ versus the accomplishments and sacrifices of the individual—for both the Jewish people and the secular world.
“We’re all part of a collective, working as a unit, as a family, as a tribe, as a faction and as a Jewish people,” said Dr. Kadish. “But at the same time, we each have importance as individuals. The fact that each one of you matters, is what we celebrate today.
“Along with other proud Touro graduates and alumni, you will forge ahead with perseverance, talent, intelligence and education and make a contribution to yourselves and the Jewish people. As we face the challenges of the next decade, our society and our people will be well prepared.”
Dr. Kadish also marked the observance of Memorial Day by noting the sacrifice of our military officers.
“We recognize each fallen individual,” he said. “At the Vietnam Memorial, we say the name of each fallen soldier; we mourn the loss of their potential contribution individually and for the common good.”
The Lander Colleges were established to provide accessible, world-class educational opportunities to the observant community. Within a supportive and Torah-rich environment, the Lander Colleges offer a challenging academic program to equip students with a superb education, and to expand and deepen their knowledge of Torah. Rather than elevating one at the expense of the other, the schools teach the immeasurable value of both scholarship and a commitment to Torah and mitzvot.
Students can choose from a wide range of disciplines—from the classic liberal arts and sciences to highly focused pre-professional programs. Over the last several years graduating seniors have continued their education at some of the most prestigious graduate schools in the country, including Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University and the University of Chicago.
At the conclusion of the 2014 commencement season, the Touro College and University System is expected to have awarded approximately 6,000 doctor of philosophy, doctor of osteopathic medicine, doctor of pharmacy, juris doctor, master’s, baccalaureate and associate degrees to students from 32 schools and colleges located in the U.S. and around the world.