UK Chief Rabbi Mirvis Addresses Lander Graduates at 42nd Commencement Exercises
New York, N.Y. – Touro College conferred Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth of the United Kingdom, with an honorary doctorate at the annual commencement exercises at David Geffen Hall in Lincoln Center on Monday, May 30, 2016.
Celebrating its 42nd commencement on Memorial Day, Touro awarded a total of 652 baccalaureate and associate degrees to graduates from 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 Men’s and Women’s divisions); the School for Lifelong Education in Brooklyn; and Machon L’Parnasa-Institute for Professional Studies.
Rabbi Mirvis is the 11th chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth since the post was introduced in 1704. He was installed in September of 2013 in an historic ceremony attended by Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales, the first time that a member of the Royal Family has attended a service for the installation of a chief rabbi. Rabbi Mirvis succeeded Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.
In his remarks, Rabbi Mirvis referenced Parshat BeHar, the week’s Torah portion. The name, BeHar, refers to Mount Sinai, one of the most significant and famous locations of all time. But in Judaism it usually takes a back seat to Har HaMoriah in Jerusalem, the mountain where the Jewish Temple once stood. He asked why only Har HaMoriah seems to be at the heart of the Jewish people. Why, he asked, don’t Jews flock to Har Sinai for Bar Mitzvahs, study and prayer, as they do the Kotel on Har HaMoriah?
Rabbi Mirvis said that one of the reasons is that Har Sinai is a place of intention, whereas Har HaMoriah is a place of action. At Har Sinai the Jewish nation set a course for the future of their people, but at Har HaMoriah they turned those plans into two Jewish Temples.
Then, turning to the graduates, the Chief Rabbi said, “Until now you have been living these two dimensions of thought and action. First of all, many of you have had the intention, the thoughts, the dream to someday actually receive a degree. Today, you have translated that dream into a wonderful reality.”
When Touro College and University System President Dr. Alan Kadish took to the podium and advised the graduates that, although they no longer have the day-to-day tasks related to studying and schoolwork, their newfound “freedom” comes with a responsibility to community.
“Our society is under distress and people have stopped listening to each other, stopped believing that others have valid points of view,” he said. “But however bleak society seems, we have to remember that optimism is a Jewish quality, and we must persevere to make a difference.”
The five Lander College valedictorians were recognized during the program: from the Lander College in Flatbush men’s division—Avi Jacob and Yosef Dov Gottlieb, both of Monsey; from the Lander College in Flatbush women’s division—Aidel Ezagui of Crown Heights; from Lander College for Women—Yaffa Leah Pacht of Dallas, Texas; and from Lander College for Men—Seth Levitin of Cleveland, Ohio.
In her speech, Ezagui, a finance major, told her fellow graduates that her experiences at Touro in Flatbush showed her that so often people’s perceived limits are self-imposed.
“I’ve learned that so many of the inhibitions and fears that hold us back and get in the way of our life are really just figments of our imagination,” she said. “It only becomes real if we let it, if we allow ‘I can’t’ to become ‘I won’t.’”
At the conclusion of the 2016 commencement season, the Touro College and University System is expected to have awarded approximately 4,000 doctor of philosophy, doctor of osteopathic medicine, doctor of pharmacy, juris doctor, master’s, baccalaureate and associate degrees to students from 29 schools and colleges located in the U.S. and around the world.
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, the University of Chicago and the University of Michigan.
About the Touro College and University System
Touro is a system of non-profit institutions of higher and professional education. Touro College was chartered in 1970 primarily to enrich the Jewish heritage, and to serve the larger American and global community. Approximately 18,000 students are currently enrolled in its various schools and divisions. Touro College has 29 branch campuses, locations and instructional sites in the New York area, as well as branch campuses and programs in Berlin, Jerusalem and Moscow. New York Medical College; Touro University California and its Nevada branch campus; Touro University Worldwide and its Touro College Los Angeles division; as well as Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Ill. are separately accredited institutions within the Touro College and University System. For further information on Touro College, please go to: http://www.touro.edu/news/.