Honoring Brandeis’s ‘key man’ for Jewish education

Lawrence school renames campus for Holocaust survivor Harry Laufer


To honor the memory of a person who is considered a “key man” who gave innumerable amounts of his time to support The Brandeis School and the founding of Rambam Mesivta High School, the Lawrence campus will be named for Harry Laufer on Sunday.

Laufer, a Hewlett Bay Park resident, died in 2016, but what he did for Jewish education and how he supported Brandeis, then Rambam, led to the nickname “our grandpa” and the dedication of the Harry Laufer Jewish Educational Campus.

“Renaming the Brandeis campus after my father is the most fitting way to honor my father’s legacy,” said daughter, Pamela Laufer. Harry and his wife, Joan, had four children. Pamela and Joan are expected to attend the Sept. 16 event. “Brandeis was extremely important to my father. He supported Brandeis with countless hours of his time and significant financial resources. He was there all the time and it was always a priority for him,” Pamela added.

Laufer, a Holocaust survivor whose family came to America in 1950, began working in a hat factory then took the money he earned and saved by his mother, and started a wholesale food business with his brother, Jack. After going their separate ways, Laufer, with a partner, took over and developed the Associated Foods brand, which grew to 250 stores and roughly $500 million in annual revenue. He retired as co-president in 2014.

“As a Holocaust survivor, Harry Laufer wanted to educate Jews and he spent many, many years doing that,” said Stu Kotler, a co-chairman of Brandeis’s board. “The fact that this campus will be educating Jews at both The Brandeis School and Rambam is a testament to him. I’m thrilled to honor him in this way.”

Rabbi Zev Meir Friedman, Rambam’s dean, recounts how the boys’ yeshiva landed at the Brandeis’s Frost Lane campus. “In 1991, a group of community-minded individuals approached me about starting a boys’ yeshiva high school in the Five Towns, which would offer serious and solid Jewish studies coupled with academic excellence,” Friedman said, we were looking for a location and Mr. Lewis Barbanell was the broker that introduced us to Brandeis.”

Barbanell, the president and owner of Woodmere-based Barberry Management Company, remembered the real estate transaction. “It was a wonderful match, great synergy and it’s been 27 years since we managed to help build a Jewish community and I’m proud to be part of it,” he said.

Friedman said Laufer was the “key man” at Brandeis. “I’m not sure of what his title was at that time but he certainly was there for whatever the school needed,” the rabbi said. “He was an individual who had an incredible commitment to Jewish education. On a personal level I have great respect for Harry. I feel he did whatever was possible to further Jewish education. He embraced all Jews and always looked at the ‘big picture,’ being concerned if ultimately Jewish education would be a benefit. He was an outstanding individual.”

The ceremony is at noon at 25 Frost Lane in Lawrence.

“For the school to give back to him by honoring his memory and keeping his presence constant even after his passing is a wonderful gift from the school to him and to his family, Pamela said. “We are very appreciative.”