The following Q&A was edited for space and clarity.
NYJL: What does Touro Law School mean to you?
HB: When I am asked what Touro Law Center means to me, I think of words that were spoken at the funeral of Touro College founder Rabbi Dr. Bernard Lander in 2010: He was motivated by a compelling desire to treat every person with dignity and respect. Respect for every person is the animating spirit of TLC, a truly student-centered school in which attention is paid to the needs of everyone in our extended family of professors, faculty, staff, students and our surrounding community. The responsiveness of faculty, staff and administration to students is unlike anything I’ve seen anywhere else. So too is the focus on teaching and learning as the most important activities of the school, together with service to our neighbors through clinics and volunteer work.
NYJL: You mentioned Touro founder Rabbi Bernard Lander, who passed away in 2013. What legacy of his remains with regard to a connection to the Jewish faith?
HB: Dr. Lander’s legacy remains central to everything we do at the Law Center. I am continually moved by his beautiful interpretation of the words of the great sage Hillel to mean that Jewish people and institutions have a dual obligation that requires us not only to perpetuate Jewish learning, but to do so in order to serve all of humanity. Dr. Lander exemplified this respect for every human being in every facet of his life and career, from his service on New York City’s first human-rights commission, to his groundbreaking scholarship on juvenile delinquency, to his work on behalf of the civil-rights movement, and in his creation of educational institutions for the neglected and underserved.
NYJL: What percentage of graduates from Touro Law School are female? What does that say about Touro as an institution?
HB: Touro Law Center’s student population is approximately 50 percent women. (In fact, the 2017 entering class is exactly 50 percent male-female!) And both the law school and Touro College and university system have an unwavering commitment to race and gender diversity. Women have attained the highest academic honors and occupy senior leadership positions throughout the university. For example, my predecessor as Touro Law dean was Patricia Salkin, who is now Touro College provost for Graduate and Professional Programs; and Sabra Brock is the dean of the Touro College Graduate School of Business. Dr. Marian Stoltz-Loike serves as the vice president for online education.
NYJL: You have practiced law for more than two decades, and will now be dean at a law school. What do you think will be the biggest difference in how you approach each day?
HB: It is difficult to summarize the differences between practicing law and being a dean. Both, for me, involve excitement, unpredictability and constant challenges. Both involve meeting and working with intelligent and lovely people. The speed at which things happen at a big law firm is dazzling. The care for every single student at TLC is equally dazzling.
NYJL: What are the three key things that make up the soul of an educational institution?
HB: If I had to identify three key things that make up the soul of an educational institution, I would point to the students, the professors and staff, and the alumni. What make these successful are great and sustainable traditions, including, at Touro, that students are always heard and paid attention to. Indeed, it is probably the close relationship between students and their professors that most distinguishes Touro from other law schools.
NYJL: On a lighter note, we always love asking which restaurant recommendations our interviewees would make to our readers. Any thoughts?
HB: My favorite restaurant is the Prime Grill in Manhattan, not so much for the food, which is wonderful, but because it is part of our tradition of food and fellowship, a social gathering place for the Kosher-observant community and a constant reminder of the closeness of that community.
NYJL: What is your elevator pitch as to why our readers should consider attending Touro Law School?
HB: My elevator pitch for TLC would first be to draw attention to the student-centered nature of the school. Second, I would point to the way in which our teaching and learning is based on scientific principles: It is all evidence-based, for example, enhanced formative assessment and flipped classrooms, and that is exciting to students and professors. Third, I would point to the diverse neighborhood in which the law school is situated, and the vital services provided by our clinics to our neighbors, including veterans, others who suffer from the ravages of war and natural disasters, the elderly, immigrants and many others. I look forward to major initiatives both in the classroom as well as in the form of clinical outreach that will touch the children in our neighborhood, and I hope that that becomes a strong theme in our future clinical work. Fourth, for our students who are observant, our Sabbath and holiday-observant calendar and Kosher cafeteria, together with traditional learning opportunities, make Touro a welcoming place.