After obtaining his optometry license, Leon started a neighborhood practice in the Richman home which specialized in the diagnosis and treatment of eye conditions, rather than selling eyeglasses. He became involved in the research and development of a more practical type of hard contact lens that was superior in several ways to the newly introduced soft contact lenses. He also developed a multi-disciplinary approach to diagnosing students with learning disabilities connected to treatable vision problems. In both cases, Leon had to battle the entrenched establishment to gain a hearing for his new ideas.
Leon and Rosalie sank deep roots in the Flatbush community. They bought a home of their own and sent their three children to the Yeshivah of Flatbush. Leon and Rosalie were part of a group of religious parents who successfully fought to establish strict Orthodox standards of conduct for the Yeshivah of Flatbush’s lay leaders. When some of the school’s non-Orthodox donors retaliated by halting their donations, Leon organized a parent volunteer-based fundraising campaign which enabled the yeshiva to finance its operations without having to rely on large individual contributions.
In the 1960’s, Leon launched an ambitious effort to expand an existing advanced studies program for alumni of the Yeshivah of Flatbush High School into an accredited Jewish college. Working with Dr. Bernard Lander, Leon’s plan evolved into the concept for Touro College. Leon was instrumental in enabling Touro to receive its charter from the New York State Department of Higher Education in 1970.
In 1987, Leon was seriously injured in a mugging attack outside his home. After his miraculous recovery, Leon became determined to show his gratitude by applying the practical expertise in construction that he had gained in a side career as a small real estate investor and developer to meeting the needs of the Jewish community. Among those projects, Leon personally supervised the construction of the attractive new building of the Young Israel of Avenue J in Flatbush. Leon was also a driving force behind the establishment of a badly needed regional emergency medical center, located in Efrat, where his daughter and her family now live.
In the meantime, Rosalie earned a Ph.D. from New York University, and became a full professor in the English literature department of the College of Staten Island. In the early 1990’s, Rosalie was asked to serve as national president of Emunah Women. With Leon’s support and encouragement, Rosalie used her communication skills to vigorously defend the rights of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel, and to refute supporters of the Oslo peace process in the media and international forums.
This book is much more than a memoir to friends and members of the Reich family. It bears witness to the historical events and accomplishments in which Leon and Rosalie Reich played a significant part. In the process, it paints a vivid picture of the times and Jewish communities in which they lived, illuminating them for all generations, while offering Leon and Rosalie’s unique perspective on issues with which the Jewish community still struggles to this day.
All proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to the Young Israel of Avenue J. The book may be ordered direct from the Amazon website at amazon.com.Joel Mandel
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