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Forever a Fighter

Barbara Bensoussan

Dr. Mark Hasten survived Stalinist Russia, fought in World War II, joined the Irgun and the IDF, and landed penniless in America. He soon became a top engineer at General Mills and later, with his brother Hart, the proprietor of a nursing home chain and banking empire, not to mention chairman of the board of Touro College. The endlessly inventive man looks back on his field of dreams.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

I arrive to my Manhattan meeting with Dr. Mark Hasten mortifyingly late, thanks to a subway breakdown and crosstown traffic so clogged the taxi was practically moving backward. But Dr. Hasten is wholly unperturbed and gracious as can be. “We should’ve sent you a helicopter,” he says with a twinkle in his eye, adding, “My brother and I used to own one for our business. It came in handy when snowstorms canceled the commercial flights.” Dr. Hasten, the chairman of the board of Touro College, greets Mishpacha in his office on Seventh Avenue, wearing a blue baseball cap and a natty striped suit. An enameled lapel pin of crossed American and Israeli flags proclaims his fierce loyalty to both countries. Ever ready with a story or joke, rolled out in an Eastern European accent, you could easily take him for somebody’s zeidy coming to hand out dollar bills or sucking candies. But for all his homey, unassuming charm and slight stature,Dr.MarkHasten — now hitting 90 — is a powerhouse. I don’t know about sucking candies, but his handouts are comprised not of dollar bills but of substantial donations. Before me is a man who, possessing little more than ingenuity and pluck, survived Stalinist Russia, fought in World War II, joined the Irgun and the IDF, and landed penniless in America. There he made a Horatio Alger–style climb to become a top engineer at General Mills and later, with his brother Hart, the proprietor of a nursing home chain and banking empire. SaysDr.Hasten’s son RabbiMichaelHasten: “My father likes to say he saw Gehinnom, and livedGanEden.”

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