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Rep. Lawler addresses 600 graduates of Touro, accepts honorary degree

“You are free now—free to work for your families and communities … free to help Klal Yisroel … and free to build a better world,” said Alan Kadish, president of the university.

Rep. Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.) speaks at the graduation ceremony of Lander College at Touro University, where he earned an honorary degree, on June 2, 2024. Credit: Courtesy of Touro University.
Rep. Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.) speaks at the graduation ceremony of Lander College at Touro University, where he earned an honorary degree, on June 2, 2024. Credit: Courtesy of Touro University.

Rep. Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.), who introduced the Antisemitism Awareness Act into Congress, received an honorary degree from Touro University at its 50th annual commencement.

Touro University Graduation Mike Lawler Honorary Degree
Rep. Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.) receives an honorary degree from Touro University at its graduation ceremony on June 2, 2024. Credit: Courtesy of Touro University.

The congressman addressed the nearly 600 graduates and their families at the 50th annual commencement ceremony on June 2, which took place at Alice Tully Hall in New York City’s Lincoln Center, beginning with a little levity before seriousness.

Referencing one of the legislature’s most vocal pro-Hamas politicians, Lawler quipped: “Rashida Tlaib is sorry she couldn’t join us today.”

Lawler told the graduates that the day’s celebrations went beyond their degrees to recognize “the character, values and sense of community you have cultivated during your time here.”

Declaring that “I will never be silent and never back down,” Lawler said he had “led the fight to stand up for our Jewish community here in America and combat antisemitism and Jew-hatred.”

‘Integration of Jewish identity with higher education’

Emily Austin, a social-media influencer, journalist, model and actress, served as keynote speaker for her own graduation last week from Touro University’s New York School of Career and Applied Studies. She has been to Israel multiple times of late, visiting Jewish communities in the south that were devastated by the Hamas terrorist attacks on Oct. 7.

In fact, she left Hofstra University for Touro because of its flexible schedule.

“Many of us have been faced with unforeseen challenges and hurdles—you know, like a multi-year pandemic disrupting our education and our lives. But I didn’t want to let these challenging moments dictate my future, and we didn’t,” said Austin in her speech.

Alan Kadish, the university’s president, told the graduates: “You are free from the day-to-day responsibilities of classes and maintaining your grades. You are free now—free to work for your families and communities … free to help Klal Yisroel … and free to build a better world.”

Touro University Graduation Women
Graduates of the Lander College at Touro University on June 2, 2024. Credit: Courtesy of Touro University.

Bracha Gluck of the school’s Lander College for Women, one of this year’s valedictorians, said in her speech: “At Touro, there was a seamless integration of our Jewish identity with our higher education. I never felt divided over being both academic and Jewish.”

She then revealed her future plans, saying, “it is for this reason that I am excited to continue pursuing my dream of becoming a doctor in the Touro University system at New York Medical College.”

Morris Oiring, founder of the Oiring Group and long-time COO of Pleet Homecare, received the 2024 Alumnus of the Year Award.

Touro University Graduation Crowd
The graduation ceremony at the Lander College of Touro University, June 2, 2024. Credit: Courtesy of Touro University.
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