Graduates Aaron Mehdizadeh, Samuel Yudelzon and Dr. Moshe Sokol, dean of Touro’s Lander College for Men

Graduates from Touro’s Lander Colleges marched into Lincoln Center’s David Geffen Hall before an audience of family members and friends. They received their diplomas at the 45th annual commencement of Touro College. In all, 608 graduates were awarded baccalaureate degrees from Lander College of Arts and Sciences in Flatbush, Lander College for Women, and Lander College for Men. Eighty students received associate degrees from Machon L’Parnasa/The Institute for Professional Studies and The School for Lifelong Education.

Touro also awarded an honorary doctoral degree to Professor Jonathan Halevy, co-director general of Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem. Professor Halevy established the hospital as a center of excellence and has played a central role in the Israeli healthcare system. He urged students to “keep reading and learning, and always maintain your curiosity…once you become a leader in your discipline, become a mentor yourself.”

Valedictorians Moshe Baitelman, Sarit Hadi, Eric (Yitzy) Klipper, and Rebecca (Rivka) Melka all looked beyond “adulting” to talk about becoming leaders and contributors to society. They thanked Touro for preparing them to become successful professionals while maintaining Torah values.

Moshe Baitelman, valedictorian of Lander College of Arts and Sciences Men’s Division, an alum of Yeshivas Beis Dovid Shlomo in New Haven, moved from Vancouver, British Columbia, to attend the college. Next year he will start medical school. He thanked his biology professors who “took the spark of scientific curiosity in me and turned it into a roaring flame.” Moshe also thanked his family for their unending support. Moshe served as the president of the science society and executive editor of the science journal at the Lander College of Arts and Sciences.

Sarit Hadi, valedictorian of Lander College of Arts and Sciences Women’s Division in Flatbush, told her classmates, “Our careers may identify what we do, but they do not identify who we are. Who we are is not determined by what we acquire, but rather, paradoxically, by what we give.” Sarit attended seminary at Lahav Bais Yaakov. She is following in the footsteps of her mother and sister, both Touro alumnae, and plans to become a speech-language pathologist, a career that will enable her to help people find their voices. She has been accepted to the graduate programs at Brooklyn College and Touro and the doctoral program in audiology at the CUNY Graduate Center. She lives in the Midwood section of Brooklyn.

Eric (Yitzy) Klipper, valedictorian of Lander College for Men, quoted former General Electric CEO Jack Welch, who said, “Leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.” Yitzy said, “Whether it is a class project, helping an individual through hard times, creating the next technological advancement, or running a country, we as the future leaders must nurture a vision of what we want to accomplish, and do everything we can to achieve it.” A highly motivated student who previously spent two years studying at Yeshivat Shaalvim in Israel, Yitzy will begin Rutgers School of Dental Medicine this fall. He is a native of Elizabeth, New Jersey.

Rebecca (Rivka) Melka, the valedictorian of Lander College for Women, also spoke about leadership and determination. She said, “If we have a vision of who we want to be and what we want to accomplish, with determination and self-confidence, we can and will rise to the occasion.” Rebecca cultivated this spirit during college, seeking out internships with local dentists and working as a research assistant while maintaining a near-perfect GPA. Rebecca will enroll this fall in Columbia University Dental School. She attended Michlalah Jerusalem seminary and grew up in Waterbury, Connecticut.

Dr. Alan Kadish, president of Touro College & University System, told the students they had all made a series of choices when they began their academic journey. “One of these choices was to choose Touro’s Lander Colleges, where we work to build a university system that will help repair the world through education and Jewish values. My wish for each and every one of you is that you take the lessons that you learned here and truly apply them; that for the rest of your lives, you have the opportunity to bring a tikkun to a society that truly needs healing. As such, I urge each of you to fully dedicate yourselves to becoming the professional that you would hold up as the standard-bearer, not only professionally, but also ethically.”

For more information visit Touro.edu.

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