It was the worst of times…

Rosh Hashana Message From Touro President, Dr. Alan Kadish

September 17, 2020

It has been a challenging year on many fronts, from the COVID-19 pandemic and a weakened world economy to climate change and social unrest. Schools and colleges in particular have been confronted with how to continue education while protecting their student, staff and faculty populations. Many of the nation’s schools are facing financial challenges—despite intense work to return to a semblance of normalcy, their efforts have been marred by COVID outbreaks requiring them to curtail activities or close.

The continued fight for racial and social justice in the U.S.—a fight that the Jewish community has always supported—is important, but that fight has been complicated by the actions of some that further increase public danger. We need a consistent message from all leadership across the political spectrum that racism, anti-Semitism and intolerance of any sort won’t be tolerated, and responsible action to make sure that message is received.

All in all, it is easy to suggest that the constellation of challenges that we face are greater than any time in the last several decades and fall victim to pessimism. But as one of my teachers once wisely told me, pessimism is not a Jewish trait. We believe that human beings were created for a higher purpose and that our “job” is to fulfill our mission. Touro’s mission—to build a better future for all of our students in the service of knowledge, compassion, and social justice—has allowed us to come together through challenges in the past, and will continue to do so in the future. The individual and collective actions of our students, faculty and staff to help others during the pandemic have not only been inspiring, but also they herald a future bright with compassion and cooperation.

In adversity there is an opportunity for growth. Tough times also test one’s determination and Touro has courageously continued to meet the challenge. In March, we saw a nearly seamless transition to remote education with substantive training and technological upgrades. Despite COVID, we continued to develop new programs and add campus locations, including the growth of our Jewish studies program and scholarship. We are also encouraged by, among other things, the ongoing success our Bio incubator, and the continued financial stability of the entire Touro College and University System. Recently, our continued dedication to diversity was recognized again as TouroCOM was an award recipient of the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award in the Health Professions. One expects more at Touro, and we strive to deliver it.

As a nation, we also know that we are far better equipped to deal with the challenges of pandemics like COVID than we have been in the past. Despite politicization of the situation by some, and the missteps that come when facing any new challenge, research into treatment and a vaccine is proceeding at breakneck speed, and the prospect of relief is hopefully on the horizon.

There’s genuine hope that our intensified focus on human dignity will continue to erode remaining prejudices, and that we will unite together, not as a collection of races who cooperate but rather as a singular human race. The Abraham Accords signed this week, which I was proud to attend, are but one example of how old antagonisms can be reimagined into joint and collegial action.

The Jewish New Year is a time of reevaluation: We consider where we have been and where we would like to go. Each of us has a role to play in moving our society and our important institution forward. Let us commit to redoubling our efforts to do all that we can in the coming year to improve ourselves, our families, our institution, and the world around us.

תכלה השנה וקללותיה תחל שנה וברכותי
Let the year end and its curses, let the year begin and its blessings (Talmud Megillah, 31b).

Indeed, may the worst of times give birth to the best of times, for all of us, and for all humanity.

With warm wishes for a sweet and healthy New Year,

Alan Kadish