Touro College Celebrates 50 Years

How a Small Jewish Institution Became an Educational Pioneer

October 29, 2021
Touro alumni Aaron Kattan with child physical therapy patient
Dr. Aaron Kattan

Fifty years ago, 35 students walked into a building in Midtown Manhattan and became the first class at Touro College. With those steps, they fulfilled the dream of Touro’s founder, Dr. Bernard Lander, who sought to create a space where Jewish students’ values, cultural and spiritual needs could go hand in hand with their educational pursuits.

Today, Touro students hail from all over the world, from all walks of life, in the pursuit of a common goal: To get the best possible education, to find a promising professional career and to do so in an environment that respects and supports their backgrounds and beliefs.

Dr. Lander, who became the founding president of Touro, would be gratified to see how Touro has grown over the past five decades. With 19,000 students and 35 schools on four continents, Touro College and University System is America’s largest not-for-profit independent institution of higher and professional education under Jewish auspices. 

Dr Lander
Dr. Bernard Lander

Touro’s 108,000 alumni are leaders in their respective fields, from medicine and health sciences to law; business to education; and technology to Jewish studies — all reflecting the Jewish commitment to values and respect for applied knowledge and discovery. Alumni have assumed leadership roles in Jewish communities the world over, impacting and sustaining shuls, yeshivot, mikvaot and more. Touro’s alumni can also be found in top accounting and law firms, setting policy as government officials and working on the front lines as healthcare leaders.

Touro offers an expanding array of degree programs, including undergraduate and graduate programs in Jewish studies liberal arts and sciences and professions, including education, law, medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, health sciences, social work, business and more. Faculty conduct cutting-edge research with important implications for the future of healthcare. Recently, researchers at Touro’s medical school discovered gene mutations that protect against obesity and scientists at College of Pharmacy showed the impact of marijuana in reducing major Parkinson’s disease symptoms.

A national leader in healthcare education

Since its founding, Touro has emerged as an innovator in healthcare education. With nearly 8,000 students annually in the health sciences, Touro is fast becoming one of the largest healthcare educational systems in the U.S. Its 13 schools train medical and healthcare professionals in medicine, pharmacy and dentistry.

Uriel Waldman, a first-year dental student at Touro College of Dental Medicine, who earned his undergraduate degree at Touro’s Lander College of Arts and Sciences in Flatbush said, “Touro set me up for success. I had amazing teachers in Touro Flatbush who both prepared me thoroughly for my dental admission test (DAT) and for my didactic courses in dental school. Continuing with Touro for graduate school was an obvious choice to me.”

touro dental student Uriel Waldman
Uriel Waldman

Touro offers opportunities for high-achieving students through its Integrated Honors Tracks and Medical Honors Pathway that combine undergraduate studies with a direct pathway to professional education.

Dr. Aaron Kattan, a physical therapist, became hooked on his chosen career as a physical therapist (PT) during his first semester at Touro’s Lander College for Men. “I took all my science prerequisites while at Lander, and then transferred straight into Touro’s PT school,” he said. “Staying within the Touro system made it a seamless transition, enabling me to continue enjoying the incredible support of my fellow students and the Touro professors — and it saved me two years.”

A welcoming environment for Jewish students

Touro does not simply accommodate Jewish traditions and lifestyles, it is our core mission to support and sustain them. On all campuses, the school allows time for students to worship and to study, to celebrate and to honor their cultures and beliefs. Cafeterias serve kosher food, and the academic calendar is in sync with Jewish holidays. Touro serves the entire spectrum of the Jewish community, enabling religious students to build meaningful and high-powered careers in an environment that is conducive to religious observance and growth.

Lander College of Arts and Sciences graduate Bracha Cohen credits Touro for helping her fulfill her professional goals. This Brooklyn mother has risen through the ranks of Goldman Sachs and today co-heads a division of 700 programmers in the Asset Management Division, which manages over two trillion dollars. “I chose Touro because it offered a strong education and supported my values as a yeshiva graduate. Touro gave me a solid foundation in the concepts of computer programming. I was well-prepared for my first job, and I have been able to learn on the job since then,” Cohen says. One of her daughters is attending Touro now.

Bracha Cohen headshot
Bracha Cohen

A steadfast commitment to service

Touro was established in the service of knowledge, compassion and social justice. Over the past 50 years, Touro has remained steadfast in this commitment, offering myriad programs that serve underserved communities.

In 2018, the Chesed Leadership Program, a fellowship designed to nurture and advance Orthodox Jewish women leading nonprofit and social service organizations, was launched and since then, scores of women have built the professional skills they need to succeed. This program is a partnership between Lander College for Women, the Touro College Graduate School of Social Work and UJA Federation of New York and includes participants whose organizations address key issues such as addiction, autism, special education and patient advocacy. Students learn the basics of organizational development and strategic planning, volunteer and board development, public relations and social media, fundraising, financial management, technology and human resources.

In 2012, when superstorm Sandy decimated homes and livelihoods on Long Island, Touro Law students set up a legal hotline within three days and Touro became a national model. When the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, the law school’s Public Advocacy Center applied the same model to create a COVID-19 hotline. Students, volunteer lawyers and Touro employees responded to concerns about issues ranging from employment and food security to mental health and immigration. At the same time, Touro’s New York Medical College launched a series of webinars, which quickly became essential viewing for health professionals across New York State. Students in medical and allied health fields volunteered in busy hospitals and crowded emergency rooms.

Touro students gain valuable experience through service opportunities and internships. The speech and language students staff a Speech and Hearing Center in Brooklyn that provides affordable services to the community, while health science students teach technology to seniors and mentor underserved high school students interested in medicine and science careers through the award-winning MedAchieve program.

Whether they study in New York, Israel, Moscow or Berlin, Touro students are prepared to thrive in the competitive global economy. But the return on investment in a Touro education is far greater than financial rewards. Graduates become accomplished, thoughtful citizens who share and perpetuate our belief in equal access to quality education, the treatment of all human beings with integrity and respect, personal and professional ethics and the building of a responsive and responsible society.

Alan Kadish, Leading Touro into the Future

Dr Kadish headshot
Dr. Alan Kadish

A medical doctor, a deeply committed observant Jew and a forward thinker, Dr. Kadish is imbuing every program and division of Touro with professionalism, prioritizing research and faculty development and serving the myriad educational needs of varied constituencies.

Dr. Kadish has helped Touro expand its unique offerings for Jewish and underserved communities while becoming a top-tier institution for the study of health sciences and medicine. As one of the largest and continually growing healthcare educational systems in the U.S,. Dr. Kadish has positioned Touro to lead a new era in medicine.

In providing educational opportunities that are rigorous, accessible, and — perhaps most of all — relevant, Dr. Kadish keeps our vision clear and progressing ever forward. Under his leadership, we continue to prepare a new generation of scholars, entrepreneurs and leaders for the world ahead.

And 50 years ago, that is exactly what Dr. Lander wanted to achieve.