World Jewry suffered the loss of 3 great religious-communal leaders recently.They are Rabbi Munacham Porush, Rabbi Chatzkel Besser and Rabbi Bernard Lander.
While I was not friend of Rabbis Porush or Besser,I was privileged to work with them,as colleagues on behalf of the Jewish people and community.Both were of the Agudah persuasion,however they were people of the world.
Rabbi Porush, a long time member of the Knesset and holder of important positions in government served as a member of the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture. This organization not known for its Orthodox leanings,was and is made up of outstanding leaders and intellectuals.Rabbi Porush was an individual who could bridge the divide between all elements of our world,and thereby was able to bring about much financial support for Torah scholarship.He was soft spoken, but sharp and extremely well respected.This was so especially that one would not expect this Aguda leader to partake in such an organization.
I served with Rabbi Besser on the US Commission for the Preservation of America's Heritage Abroad.This Commission made up of Presidential appointees,devotes much of its time and effort to restoring cemeteries in Europe.A majority of these during my term were Jewish.
Rabbi Besser had a very special relationship with Ron Lauder,and was to my knowledge his prime advisor in Lauder's wonderful project in building Jewish schools in Eastern Europe.
I was most familiar with Rabbi Lander,in my role at the OU,and for a few month period as Chairman of the Board of his Women's College.
He once asked me to set up an appointment for him with Israeli Ambassador Itamar Rabinovich,currently the President of Tel Aviv University and the author of a new book on the peace process.As soon as I introduced them,I was about to leave the room when "Bernie" asked me to stay for a few moments,as he described his long history in academia,government and community leadership.
I was always amazed at his energy,brilliance and vision.Despite being legally blind from Macular degeneration,he could deliver a sermon or a rousing speech without notes or hesitation.
His Schools,and thousands of students speak for themselves.
They were all gentlemen and scholars,and brought a real KIDDUSH HASHEM into the world based upon their outreach to every human being.
They will be missed.
May their souls be bound up in the eternal