The Jewish Press: What’s your background?
Lander: I grew up in a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri. I was a very active member of a Reform Jewish synagogue and in the youth movement that was part of it, where I went on to become both a regional and a national officer.
Then I went to the University of Chicago, where I met my wife, and then I spent a year in London getting a master’s degree. My wife came to New York to go to New York University Law School, and so I moved from London to New York in 1992.
What led you to the world of politics?
I actually used to see politics as much as a barrier to good things happening as a pathway to good things happening.
But I was working at the Fifth Avenue Committee, which is a not-for-profit organization that works on affordable housing, job training, and similar matters, and one of the last things I did there concerned the city’s proposal to rezone Fourth Avenue. The folks I was working with wanted to make sure there were some units in those buildings that normal families could afford, and we learned a lot about policies to make that possible. And so I thought to myself, “Hmm, there are real opportunities here to do things through politics.”