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12 November 2020

25 Cheshvan 5781



Rabbi Lord Sacks, from his book Celebrating Life



Jewish News 12 November 2020

Baruch Dayan Ha’Emet Everyone at Kisharon is truly saddened by the passing of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks z”l He together with his wife Lady Sacks gave so much support for those with learning disabilities Our thoughts are with his family at this time

This has been donated by trustees of kisharon

020 3209 1187 • info@kisharon.org.uk www.kisharon.org.uk Registered Charity Number 271519

Baruch Dayan Ha’Emet With profound sadness we mourn the tragic loss of our teacher and leader, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks. A statesman and a scholar, he was as comfortable sharing Jewish wisdom with world leaders and Radio 4 listeners as he was inspiring Jewish communities around the globe. Rabbi Sacks championed the depth and wisdom of Judaism in language that connected with the universal. His distinctive voice was greatly loved and revered by Prime Ministers and Royalty, as well as heads of faith and those of none. Rabbi Sacks supported our community’s organisations and the lay and professional teams who ran them. He will be sorely missed. We send our deepest condolences to Lady Elaine, Joshua, Dina and Gila, Rabbi Sacks’ three brothers and wish them a long life and comfort among the mourners of Zion.

Photo credit: The Office of Rabbi Sacks

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12 November 2020 Jewish News



Rabbi Lord Sacks: 1948-2020



Photo by Blake Ezra


ver since I became interested in politics and religion at the same time, at university, and under the influence of two Australians, one an aspiring politician and the other a radical priest, I have always felt that religious leaders have a role to play in the small ‘p’ politics of a nation. Not so that they can support one Party or another, but so they can elucidate and educate the nation, to explain what it means to be a community of people with shared values, a shared spirit and a sense of a shared future. This task they can often do, with a credibility and a connection those involved in the hurly burly of Party politics cannot. But it requires a religious leader of exceptional talent and sensitivity to do it. Jonathan Sacks was undoubtedly one of the cleverest people I ever met. There was never a wasted conversation and believe me, in political life, that is a high bar. Every time we met, as we did many times over the years, I came away with fresh insight and improved understanding. His outstanding quality was not his intellect, but the use to which he put it. He didn’t shrink back from confronting the difficult questions. His book, The Dignity of Difference, came out in the shadow of 9/11. It was a passionate defence of religious tolerance, and an open-minded invitation to religious dialogue. Most of us would agree with those sentiments but, at the time, it was a brave case to make. Throughout his work, what shines through time and again is his humanity, combined with an infinite willingness to engage, no matter how difficult the subject or the audience – the mark of true intellectual confidence. He could interpret, and make come alive as no other, the Torah. I would love to hear him speak about Judaism, have him take me through Biblical stories so familiar to me, yet in his words they would take on new meaning and, best of all, contemporary relevance. He understood both the perils facing religion, the attempts to demonise it, to use its dark moments in history to obscure its capacity to light up a path to the future; and the essential place of religious belief in society: the right of those with religious belief not to hold the power, but to speak up to and occasionally against the powerful. He could see how easily secularism was becoming its own religion, and was one of the last great articulators of the danger of such a position and how it would subtly, but deeply, undermine a part of what gives a nation a grounding in the best of human nature. In one of his last broadcasts, he spoke with brilliant clarity of the difference between a society based on ‘I’ and one based on ‘we’. About the need for collective, and not just individual, responsibility. A society governed not by self-interest, but by the common good. We had another subject to discuss, however. One of my earliest conversations with him – after both of us at an early age had been given the leadership of our respective organisations, me of the Labour Party, he of the Jewish community – was about the challenge of leading. I said I thought I had the toughest job of the two of us. He smiled, then laughed, then literally put his head back and roared with amusement. “I think not,” he said. “But then,” he added, “I wouldn’t want it any other way. The Jewish people produce great leaders, but not many great followers.” Jonathan was one of my heroes. He was someone I loved and admired. His physical presence has left us, and Elaine and his beautiful family, far too soon, but his spiritual presence will remain with me until my own moment of passing comes.



Jewish News 12 November 2020

Rabbi Lord Sacks: 1948-2020

Prince Charles’ personal tribute ound loss to the Jew acks is the most prof

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rd S The death of Rabbi Lo urce of ts will have lost a so as dc oa br d an s on and to the world. s, serm g times. through his writing ering and confusin ld wi be n te of Those who knew him in n tio lost a trusted guide ve ty and moral convic ha ni , sa ly , al om on sd rs wi pe m ng unfaili of knowing hi elf, had the privilege iend. Those who, like mys true and steadfast fr a st lo ve ds, and my ha e, on r fo her. I, them knew no boun to n tio vo de e os and an inspired teac wh t man all, have lost a grea His family, most of his seemingly in their grief. l immensely. With se un co ’ ks heart goes out to them ac S bi ab the story had come to value R inct for the power of st in s hi d an om Over many years, I sd r-failing wi d to define of learning, his neve sues in question, an is al or m e th rly inexhaustible store ea entify cl d be relied upon to id in our lives, he coul of our current s being faced. usion and clamour nf co e th h fearlessly the choice ug ro th ing t th which he could cu ious disciplines, mak lig re d an r la cu se The apparent ease wi th rship in bo generations. ed in his deep schola ligion, culture and re of es ri da un bo concerns was ground ss tion acro d learning to speak with convic t to listening to, an en itm m m co : ts him uniquely able en ent itm nvictions; commitm ished by three comm co gu in eld st -h di ly s ep wa de e eir lif th His ation; ing either his or vocacy and particip t fear of compromis ad ou n th ow wi s hi rs h he ot ug , ro om th fr nurtured the nation, which he n – to shalom. to the institutions of ony of God’s Creatio rm ha ism the d an ity gr te in showed that in Juda he as , on si es commitment to the pr im ipate by r me made a profound which we can partic fo in e ot ity wr un he a y r, sa to es ea An Nature, unity of its Cr and the integrity of verse flows from the rs ni U he e ot th of of ity y on gn di rm e ha specting th ds of the self and re silencing the deman bi ement as Chief Rab ment of the divine. tir ag re ’ fr a ks ac th S bo bi in ab g R in k recognis e event to mar ar of the state of 13 when I spoke at th 20 in d ke ar m raries, born in the ye re po I em As nt co t ac ex re this we he was a ‘light unto hed years, he and I at is th , gu ah in st ai Is di g 22 in r ot te af ely misqu time, I said, deliberat ars to come. rning for many ye Israel’s birth. At that bu ht light lig at th ep ke , how brightly that he would d us pe to ho n I ve id gi sa s d wa an he nation’ e years that ated. years ago. But, in th n ve se ly on s places were illumin wa rk at da Th y an m w Divine ho , can only look to the lives were brightened we t, or sh t cu ly ed ct burned, how many d unexpe almist says, life so tragically an faith that, as the Ps ve ha d an t, In contemplating a us tr n his ow Rabbi Sacks placed Providence in which r nds. ed wisdom enough fo ha ar s sh hi d in an e e ar ot es wr , tim ied our me, stud the bi Sacks, it seems to ot fail to be struck by nn ca u yo d an s, In his 72 years, Rab ok read his bo ssion. sten to his sermons, ty, charged with pa ili m hu in ed ot many lifetimes. Li ro g, rnin ish people. he spoke: rich with lea achers among the Jew te st te ea urgency with which gr e th of on and we must a voice in the traditi n to us for so long, ve gi s It is unmistakably wa he at th od moral we must thank G ed, where all share a lu va e ar l al e er Even as we mourn, wh a society r which he stood: for honour the values fo ar, ovitch, earlier this ye in rpose. ab pu R ne m vi hu di ac a N d av an bond d teacher, R eat ing of his own revere us life. Having a gr ve gi ey Th . ge led Speaking of the pass e than know . eachers give us mor said of Rabbi Sacks be tly gh ri d ul co s Rabbi Sacks said: “T ose word . we get to heaven.” Th live on as a blessing y teacher is as close as or em m s hi d an e ue to shin for ever.” May his light contin r his mercy endureth fo ; od go is he r fo , the Lord “O give thanks unto


12 November 2020 Jewish News


Rabbi Lord Sacks: 1948-2020





Jewish News 12 November 2020

Rabbi Lord Sacks: 1948-2020


Photo by Blake Ezra


hen we were asked to write something about our boss Rabbi Sacks, the truth is that we weren’t sure we could. We didn’t know if it was possible to find the words beyond the tears and we apologise now because this piece, try as we may, will not do him justice. His passing, too sudden, too soon, when there was so much work still to do, has left a gaping hole in so many people’s lives. We find it so difficult to comprehend a world without him in it. It doesn’t seem fair, it doesn’t make sense, and we don’t think it will for a very long time to come. Rabbi Sacks was a giant of his – or any – generation, a Gadol HaDor, an irreplaceable and irrepressible leader of leaders, and a peerless and wise teacher whose intellectual clarity and moral voice carried such weight across the global Jewish community and far beyond. Yet to us, as he was to all who had the privilege of working for him, he was above anything else an inspiring boss, mentor and friend. He was the person who phoned us multiple times a day, sometimes to discuss work-related matters but more often than not just to chat about a new book he’d ordered, a new idea he’d read, a random YouTube music video he’d discovered or to laugh at a good joke he’d heard. He was the person we spent our working day with, helping to coordinate and prepare him for his various engagements, draft countless articles and speeches, write and research books and record videos, always challenging us to push boundaries, to never accept things as they were, to utilise every avenue possible to bring his ideas to the world. He was even the person who trusted us enough to tweet and use Facebook on his behalf! But he was so much more than that. He was the person who quietly, away from the limelight, gave so many individuals, groups, rabbonim or organisations who needed it, and needed him, his most precious thing: time, which he did so willingly, unfailingly and consistently. He was the person who quietly advised global leaders, helped mediate other peoples’ problems and offered endless support and guidance to anyone who asked his advice. And he was the person who called us when we had personal traumas or issues to deal with. And called again an hour later to check in. And again an hour after that. We have read so many moving tributes of how Rabbi Sacks’ teachings impacted peoples’ Judaism or how a single interaction or phone call with him changed their lives. As his team we were unbelievably blessed. Every conversation or car journey became a shiur and an amazing insight into his mind. His home contained thousands of seforim and books; we used to joke that he single-handedly kept Amazon in business. There wasn’t a subject he wasn’t an expert in. He was our rebbe and we were simply his talmidim. And he would always finish the

Rabbi Lord Sacks and wife Elaine with (from left) Dan Sacker, Joanna Benarroch and Debby Ifield

same way: “Guys, what do you think?” He – the smartest person any of us knew – asked us what we thought. That alone speaks volumes of the man he was. The Gemara in Megillah 31a teaches in the name of Rabbi Yochanan that: “Wherever you find the greatness of the Holy One, blessed be He, there you will find His humility.” And that is, we think, what struck us more than anything else about Rabbi Sacks. He never fully realised, or perhaps he was reluctant to realise, just how great he was – despite us and many others telling him. Whenever we shared letters of admiration or thanks with him, especially in the past few difficult weeks, he would often say: “Compliments are fine. So long as you don’t inhale!” But perhaps it was because above and beyond anything else, any titles he held, books he wrote or awards he won, he was simply a mensch, an eved Hashem, a humble servant of God, who had a particular mission: to inspire more Jews to live a Judaism engaged with the world and to, in his words, “Be true to your faith and a blessing to others regardless of their faith.” Aside from the outpouring of love since he passed away, of all the wonderful accolades Rabbi Sacks received during his life, there is one that comes to mind because it


moved him the most. It occurred as Rabbi Sacks was nearing the end of his time as Chief Rabbi in 2013 by his own rabbi, Rav Nachum Rabinovitch z”l, who passed away earlier this year. Rav Nachum spoke about how the greatest of our teachers transcend all titles. “There are those rare souls who venture out into the unknown, explore new areas and create new intellectual disciplines. They do not get new titles. Instead, they give their names to their pioneering discoveries. Jonathan Sacks ranks with the teachers of Torah whose personal name is the highest mark of distinction.” Rabbi Sacks has left us with a remarkable legacy and new ways of thinking. But he has also left us with a challenge. This year, his weekly Covenant & Conversation parsha essays are taken from his book Lessons In Leadership. We did this to allow him space to continue work on the Chumash which would

have undoubtedly been the pinnacle of his many achievements. In an unnerving sense of fate, at the end of this week’s commentary on Chayei Sarah, Rabbi Sacks wrote: “Leaders see the destination, begin the journey, and leave behind them those who will continue it. That is enough to endow a life with immortality.” We are totally heartbroken that his life has come to an end. Our love goes out to Elaine, Josh, Dina, Gila, Alan, Eliot, Brian and the whole family. Yet at the same time, we feel unbelievably blessed to have been so close, for so long, to someone so great. It has been the honour of our lives to have played just a small part in Rabbi Sacks’ unbelievable legacy. He was a leader who saw the destination and began the journey. It is now up to all of us to continue it. May his memory be for a blessing.

12 November 2020 Jewish News



Rabbi Lord Sacks: 1948-2020

Jonathan’s moral leadership inspired a whole generation BY GORDON BROWN FORMER PRIME MINISTER


he voice of Jonathan Sacks is silent today and words cannot adequately explain the personal loss I and so many now feel; and no single tribute can do justice to the lifetime achievements of such a great man. For Jonathan was not only renowned for his leadership as Chief Rabbi; he was a philosopher, academic, writer, raconteur, broadcaster and teacher whose intellectual insights and moral leadership captured the imagination of a generation. And he was also a great humanitarian to whom, whoever you were, you could go for advice, and whose reservoir of personal kindnesses seemed endless. I was one who benefited from his wonderful generosity of spirit. Honours, accolades and titles followed him like night followed day, including his election at a young age as Chief Rabbi, and then his membership of the House of Lords, the prestigious Templeman prize and visiting professorships in almost every continent But, as Jonathan himself wrote in a memorable passage, what at life’s end he would value most was that he had helped his neighbour come to the aid of a family in need, assisted someone in distress, and comforted someone who was grieving. Such was his basic humanity that, as I found, his first concern was always the health and well-being of those he met. When my daughter died, Jonathan was, for me and our family, a great source of strength; and I am grateful, too, that when I was under attack and even when I needed to clarify my thinking, Jonathan was there for me too. My father, a Presbyterian minister, had chaired the Church of Scotland’s Israel committee over two decades and had visited Israel twice a year for 30 years; and I had grown up learning not only of the unspeakable evil of the Holocaust but also of the importance of JudeoChristian ideas. But it was Jonathan who showed me – and us – the significance of these ideas for the new age we were living through, and, like so many others. my education would have been

wholly incomplete without his teaching. His writing – 28 books in as many years – was prodigious. Others took summer holidays: Jonathan used his time off from his pastoral work not to relax but to complete another book, and each one of them was born out of the best of scholarship and of the highest quality. I first came across Jonathan when I read his pathbreaking book, The Politics Of Hope. There, writing of community as the often-ignored space between markets and states, he broke new ground, challenging both those who believed there is no such thing as society and those who believed in an economy based on command and control. I was surprised to be asked by Jonathan to write a preface to a new edition of such a highly influential book, but honoured to do so. That was the 1990s, and before this new century has been shaped by extraordinary upheavals – 9/11, a global financial crisis, a decade of austerity, Brexit, rising pollution, and now a global pandemic. And at all times and throughout these crises, Jonathan has been a powerful voice explaining how, learning from these events, we can come together to build a better society. When the financial crisis hit us in 2008, it was

to Jonathan many of us turned to remind people of what too many had forgotten: that markets need morals. Markets may be value-free, but they can never be values-free. Like me, Jonathan saw the financial crisis as also a moral crisis: he recalled that the word ‘credit’ is more than an accounting term, but comes from the Latin credere, which means ‘to believe’ and who noted that the word ‘confidence’ was originally about far more than market sentiment and is derived from another Latin word, confider, which emphasises that trust is the only sure basis for successful commerce and industry. His turn of phrase was immaculate. I recall him saying words to the effect that financiers had rewarded themselves with bonuses they did not need, for work they had not done, on the pretext of risks they had not taken, at the expense of impoverishing those who went without. I recall, too, him warning us of the dangers of an overmaterialistic debt-laden consumer culture that neglected the bonds of family and community: of an obsession with buying goods we did not need with money we did not have in the breathless pursuit of a happiness that could not last. After 2010, he took on many in his own community and beyond when he wrote The

Dignity of Difference, a powerful call for all of us to build bridges across faiths. This was an important book that contained an accurate warning that terrorism flourishes when people are taught to believe coexistence is impossible. Inspired by him and many who share his views, that search to find common ground and move from the battleground of conflict to the high ground of cooperation and mutual understanding continues. When I spoke out against antisemitism and expressed my shame at what had been allowed to happen within the Labour Party, what I said was much influenced by my conversations with him. When Jonathan published his most recent book, Morality, I wrote to him saying I was nominating it as the book of the year. At yet another time of social and economic crisis, where we needed, as a country. Its chapters communicate his strong and enduring belief in fairness and social responsibility, in the need for an ethical foundation for all our lives and in the redemptive power of community. I believe the advice he gave us will stand the test of time, pointing us to the building blocks we need to fashion a more socially responsible post-Covid Britain. Jonathan could tell a story in a way others could not; he used illustrations from his own experiences to bring abstract concepts to life; he could bring an audience to its feet with memorable displays of humour, often directed against himself; and he could enrapture listeners far beyond the synagogue by the sheer eloquence and excellence of his oratory. He was the best type of teacher, somebody who communicated with passion what he knew and what he had learned, in the hope of creating a better world. Our thoughts are with his wonderful wife, Elaine, and the children of whom he was so rightly proud, Joshua, Dina and Gila, and with the entire family. Words may offer little consolation when the pain of loss is at its greatest, but I hope, over time, they will find comfort in the esteem, admiration and the respect in which Jonathan and the Sacks family is held across the country. Yes, his voice may be silent, but he will live on everywhere in the influence he will continue to have on all of us whom he leaves behind.

We have laid to his eternal rest my illustrious predecessor, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, with whom I had the privilege of working for the past 30 years. He had a distinctive, familiar voice. It was a voice of clarity and erudition; a voice of hope and promise; a voice of tolerance and love; a voice of warmth and wisdom, interlaced with sensitivity and humour; a voice that will be profoundly missed by Thought for the Day listeners, by Jewish communities around the world and by all those across the globe who found in him an invaluable guide who inspired faithfulness, moderation and compassion. The pain of his loss has been felt far and wide. Every year, coinciding with the anniversary of the death of Moses, we read the portion of the Bible that describes how he oversaw the building of the sanctuary, a home for God. Yet, astonishingly, his name is entirely absent from the text. God goes out of His way not to address Moses by name, even while he embarked on a most sacred task. There is a powerful message here about what constitutes a lasting legacy as opposed to fleeting fame. Legacy has nothing to do with one’s

name and everything to do with one’s impact. Rabbi Sacks was widely acclaimed, but the measure of his greatness is in the countless lives he enriched as well as the timelessness of his wisdom. One of Rabbi Lord Sacks’s brilliant original thoughts relates to history, for which there is no word in the Hebrew Bible. Rather, the word zachor is used, which means memory. He explained that history is ‘his story’ – an account by another person about events that happened to others. We recall it and study it, but we feel disconnected. Memory is quite different – we internalise it, carry it with us and make it a part of our future. Rabbi Sacks is now not only a part of our shared history. He will also live on in our collective memory. He himself put it perfectly. “Mortality,” he said, “is written into the human condition, but so too is the possibility of immortality, in the good we do that continues long after we are here, to beget further good. There are lives that defeat death and redeem existence from tragedy.” It is from Rabbi Sacks’ own words we can be certain that his remarkable voice will continue to be with us always.

Photo by Paul Lang Photography

Chief Rabbi Mirvis’ tribute



Jewish News 12 November 2020

Rabbi Lord Sacks: 1948-2020

A legacy of insight and rare wisdom BY DANIEL TAUB



he position of Israeli ambassador to the Court of St James’ comes with a number of perks. But perhaps none was more precious to me than the regular appointment I would have, as Israel’s envoy, with the Chief Rabbi. For the first three years of my posting, this meant a regular monthly session with Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. He had a keen interest in events in Israel. He had a deep personal connection himself (he would joke that when he visited during the Gulf War, he was the only person who followed the government’s instructions to shave off his beard so he could wear a gas mask), but he also wanted to be able to help his rabbis be effective in connecting their communities to Israel. He was eager to be briefed on the current security situation, the political intrigues and the state of Israel-UK relations. I had a rather different agenda. Here was an intellectual Jewish giant, who had singlehandedly created a corpus of Jewish thought unprecedented in modern times. He had energised thinking within the Jewish world and made Jewish ideas a force to be reckoned with in wider society. I was astonished at the range of nonJewish leaders I would meet with, from archbishops to public intellectuals, who would confide what a treasured


influence his writing had been on their lives. With such a teacher, I thought, there has to be a better way for us to spend our time together. I suggested to Rabbi Sacks I would prepare briefing notes so the business part of our meeting could be completed in 15 minutes at most. That would leave the rest of the time to study together. He agreed willingly, but the truth is our earliest efforts were not a great success. He was not a natural study partner, or at least the imbalance between us made our study awkward and stilted. I suggested an alternative. Rather than

study a text together, I would send him, in advance, five or six current and important questions. He could choose any one and speak freely about it. So did I come to have the benefit of a truly wonderful tutorial. The range of his erudition was breathtaking – we would leap from the history of language to the relationship of Judaism to oriental philosophy – but the discussion was almost never disconnected from the challenges of our time. His focus was on ideas as moral forces in the real world: how do we balance our local, national and global responsibilities; how do we navigate between hubris and humility in the face of scientific progress; how do we harness the power of faith without unleashing the darker sides of fundamentalism? At the same time, our sessions together gave me a glimpse of a man who had embraced his public role with reluctance. On one occasion, he spoke about the sin of the biblical spies, who gave a bad report on the land of Israel. They were scared, he suggested, not of defeat but of victory. If they succeeded in the battle, they would have to take on the challenge of facing the real world. As he said this, it seemed this was a fear he had known himself. Truly one of the great public speakers and broadcasters of our generation, this was never a role he imagined. I have a passion for ideas, he would say, but I’m just not a people person. It’s easier for me to speak to a thousand people than to three, he would add. If left to his own inclinations he would, he admitted, have been happy to remain in the ivory tower. Two things I think made him change his mind. The first was his acute sense of tzav hasha’ah, the call of the times. In a largely godless age, where the voice of faith was barely heard on the major issues of the day, he recognised he had a unique ability to redress that balance. The second was that he was surrounded by a remarkable group of people who cherished his strengths and appreciated his weaknesses. ‘I realised I needed to surround myself with individuals with outstanding people skills,’ he said. In this, he was blessed; above all with his wife, Lady Elaine, who was always in his mind when he advised people with an abstract intellectual bent like his own, to marry someone “who has a bigger heart than you do”. Alongside the legacy of wisdom and insight he has left us, and which is more relevant today than ever, Rabbi Sacks’ life leaves us with another lesson: with commitment and moral vision, and some help from our friends, we can become something greater than we ever thought we would be.

XVI at a meeting of With Pope Benedict

faith leaders

The Queen receives a menorah from then Chief Rabbi Sacks at St James’ Palace in 2006

Uniting with faith leaders in the wake of the 7/7 terror attacks in 2005

12 November 2020 Jewish News



Rabbi Lord Sacks: 1948-2020

An eloquent messager to any audience BY JONNY LIPCZER

room, giving strength to Yoni’s

COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, many friends and his wider Bnei WORLD MIZRACHI Akiva family. It was a challenging

T Receiving his knighthood from the Queen at Buckingham Palace in 2005

The Prince of Wales and Lord Sacks at the formal induction of Ephraim Mirvis as the new Chief Rabbi in 2013

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The Queen Elizabeth is shown the Codex Valmadonna I book with Lord Sacks at a multifaith reception to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee

he first time I met with Rabbi Jonathan Sacks – more than 20 years ago – was at his office. At the end of the meeting, we both stood up to leave, and although I was closer to the door, I stood aside to let him walk ahead of me. He marched past me, looked at me, and said: “Lead from the front!” That was the first lesson in leadership that I learned from him. It was also the start of a very special relationship with him as my teacher and mentor. I credit Rabbi Sacks for my own continued involvement in Jewish education. His encouragement in every leadership role I have undertaken, and the time he gave to answering my questions, formed me into the person I am today. A few days before I moved to Israel, he phoned me. He wanted to give me a blessing. I remember his words clearly: “Continue to be involved in Jewish education. That’s your strength.” And so I did. Last year, my seven-year-old son asked me a question about Moses. I didn’t know the answer, but I knew who would. I emailed Rabbi Sacks’ office and, a few days later, received a response by way of a voice note, spoken in his characteristically eloquent style, and at a level that my son could understand. He had the unique ability of being able to direct a message to any audience, regardless of their age or background. In 2002, I became mazkir of Bnei Akiva UK and, just weeks into the start of the year, we heard news from Israel that a suicide bomber had detonated his belt on a bus in Tel Aviv, and that one of our members, Yoni Jesner, was on that bus. He was rushed to hospital, and we quickly arranged an evening of prayer at our London headquarters. Yoni was still in intensive care, but we knew there was no hope. As news spread of the gathering, Rabbi Sacks called me to say he would like to be with us. He didn’t wait to be asked; he knew this is where he was needed. He addressed the packed

moment for Bnei Akiva, and in Rabbi Sacks we had a leader we so desperately needed to light the way. His presence with us that night was a tremendous source of comfort. Whenever Rabbi Sacks visited Israel, I would invite him to speak to the Bnei Akiva gap year programmes. He never once refused. Bnei Akiva was the movement in which he grew up, and it was clear that

I LEARNED FROM HIM THAT IT IS NOT THE HONOURS WE RECEIVE THAT MATTER, BUT THE HONOUR WE GIVE he felt among friends there. On one occasion, when he finished speaking, he sat down, turned to me and asked: “Was that okay?” This was the Jewish world’s foremost orator, the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, and he was asking me if he spoke well! This speaks volumes about his humility. He was the leader of the Jewish community, but he recognised that I was the leader of this group, and so my opinion mattered to him. In three short words, I learned from him that it is not the honours we receive that matter, but the honour we give. Rabbi Sacks’ essay on the weekly Torah reading for this week closes with the following words: “Walk ahead. Take personal responsibility. Take moral responsibility. Take collective responsibility. Judaism is God’s call to responsibility.” “Walk ahead” was the first lesson I learned from him. Today, it was also the last. In one of his books, Rabbi Sacks called on us to heal a fractured world. Now, more than ever, we must heed his call and follow in his footsteps. But, right now, we just need help healing our broken hearts.


Jewish News 12 November 2020


Rabbi Lord Sacks: 1948-2020



My earliest memories of my father are in the depths of his study at the bottom of the garden, keyboard clacking, surrounded by book-lined shelves; page after page he laboured over, focused, sometimes pacing, only coming up for air when we called him in for dinner, or occasionally, if it was important, a phone call. Sometimes, on an inspired and magical evening, Beethoven or the Beatles played at full volume, and we were swept up in the tide of music and the embrace of his energy. People came and went for meetings, gathered in our living room, eager to hear his words. There was a fervour, a purpose. When he walked, he walked fast. We had to run to catch up, physically and figuratively. A couple of years ago I took my parents to see Hamilton, the musical, in which I had recognised my father in the laserfocused, driven, titular role. He always knew he was running out of time, not believing that he would live past the age of 40, having had more than one previous brush with death. In fact, death was seemingly always in the back of his mind. He encouraged me as a teenager to write my own obituary, in order to forge my path in life, so that I should be suitably remembered after it. He encouraged that in all of us – to ask, what do we live for? For what will we be remembered? A few days before my father died my mother and I, walking in the park, saw four men holding sheet music, singing in another language and then in English, of a time “when we will not be alone, for we have each other”. Their voices transcended time and space. On telling my father that evening, he recalled the scene in The Shawshank Redemption where, in an act of rebellion, the wrongly

imprisoned Andy Dufresne plays a duet from Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro – music “so beautiful it can’t be expressed in words, and makes your heart ache because of it”. My father’s mind was like that. He recognised the beauty and the pain of life and knitted them together in a compulsion to build, to renew, to hope. He loved the word hope. It embodied the art of possibility; it empowered each of us to change our collective situation when the need required; it challenged us never to accept what should not be accepted. There is a famous story of the Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Chasidism, who, when his community was faced with misfortune, would go to a certain place in the forest to meditate. There he would light a fire, say a prayer, and the misfortune would be averted. His successor, the Maggid of Mezrich, when facing similar difficulties, would go to the same place in the forest, and pray, though he did not know how to light the fire. Still, the misfortune would be averted. His successor knew the place in the forest, but did not know how to light the fire and did not know the prayer. However, the place was sufficient. Then it fell to his successor to overcome misfortune. He could not light the fire, did not know the prayer, and could not find the place in the forest. All he could do was to tell the story, and that was sufficient. But, for my father, this wasn’t enough. He didn’t want us just to tell the story of those that came before us. He challenged us to rebuild, to fix that which had become broken, to renew that which had become old, to restore that which had been forgotten. I hope we make you proud, my mentor, my father.

Night a super

Lord Sacks was presented with a lifetime ac


12 November 2020 Jewish News


Rabbi Lord Sacks: 1948-2020

rhero took centre stage

chievement award by Tony Blair at Jewish News’ glittering Night of Heroes dinner



Jewish News 12 November 2020

Rabbi Lord Sacks: 1948-2020


‘Religion has a d


I am writing this in tears. Rabbi Sacks always spoke words of Torah, on every occasion. He would quote, Ki hem chayenu v’orech yameinu (For they are our life and the length of our days). And so I will follow my rebbe. We say in the Shema: Veshinantem levanecha (And you shall teach them to your children). Rashi says: ‘These are your students, for we find everywhere that students are called children… and just as students are called children, so the person who is your teacher is called father.’ We have lost our spiritual father. Our beloved father. Rabbi Sacks, more than any rabbi I know, spoke to our generation. The Torah teaches us repeatedly that when there is a difficult problem to solve, we should go to the priest or judge “who shall be in your days”. Of course they are in our days, who else is there? But the sages taught that we must go to a person who is ‘in your days’, who understands the issues of now, who lives in the present, and not to hark back to long gone leaders. Rabbi Sacks was of our time, he understood the challenges of being a traditional Jew in the modern world and he found a way for us all to live our faith. I remember once at the end of a meeting, apologising to him if I had been rude when disagreeing on a matter we were discussing. “Don’t apologise!” he roared. “How can we learn if we don’t take criticism?” He just wanted to do his best for Am Yisrael, his beloved people, us. He taught me to love all our fellow rabbis: “Aleinu leshabeyach; it is for us to praise them.” And he was so sad when one would not live up to the task. “How can a person go through the whole Talmud, and yet the Talmud not go through them?” he would say. To sit with him was always an honour. And if I was ever frustrated and spoke inappropriately, he would say, gently: “Dignity, Rafi, always speak and act with dignity.” He embodied that, he made the world see that Torah was on a par with any contemporary philosophy or ideology, that our faith had something to say in the court of great ideas and deep truths. He enabled us to hold our heads up high and be proud to be modern Jews. His energy, his breadth of knowledge, his work ethic, were all legendary. I thank God that we were given a rabbi for our time. I miss him terribly. And when I quote him, which I will continue to do for the rest of my life, I will never say: “Rabbi Sacks said...”. I will always say: “Rabbi Sacks says”, for he is truly alive, in the words that he wrote, in the speeches he delivered, in the advice and support he gave, and in our hearts whenever we recall him and share his Torah. Rabbi Sacks says: “We do not have to redeem the world all together in one go. We do it one day at a time, one person at a time, one act at a time. A single life, said the sages, is like a universe. Save a life and you save a world. Change a life and begin to change the world.” And he did. He changed our lives. Hundreds of thousands, even millions of them. When Rabbi Sacks stands up to speak, there is a hush of anticipation. “Friends, let me share with you a little bit of Torah…” And then, as he spoke, the world would become a little brighter, hope became more real, God came closer and life had more meaning. I am sending love to his wife, Elaine, and their children, Dina, Joshua and Gila, and their grandchildren. May they be comforted by God and from the love the world has for him.

Rabbi Lord Sacks with Rabbi Dr Raphael Zarum

In 2018, Lord Sacks sat down with Justin Cohen to reflect on his life’s work to mark his 70th birthday. Here we republish the interview in full When sitting down to interview one of the world’s foremost religious thinkers – a sought-after voice on the state of the world today – the songs of Ed Sheeran are surely among the least likely topics to crop up. Perhaps even more so when the interviewee is celebrating his 70th birthday. But, after the best part of an hour with the then 69-yearold Lord Sacks, that’s the unexpected turn our chat takes as he discusses the lyrics of the British hit-maker’s Castle on the Hill and I get a rare insight into the down time of the man beyond the orator. “Brahms is great to run to,” he says “but so is Ed Sheeran. Michael Jackson is also pretty good running music. My iPhone has got terrific music; music to meditate by, chill to and music to run on my treadmill to.” I couldn’t conceal my mild amusement. But perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised by his grasp of popular culture; his belief in a Judaism engaged with the world was after all at the very centre of his message on leaving the chief rabbinate four years ago. Since then, Lord Sacks has taken that message to communities from Mexico to South America and to the wider public, including when he became the first religious figure to take the main stage at TED’s HQ – an experience he describes as “one of the most nerve-wracking in my life”. That talk was streamed to 100,000 people in cinemas

around the world and has been viewed online more than 1.5 million times. The peer has also innovated on social media, where a series of viral whiteboard animations voiced by Lord Sacks attract hundreds of thousands of views. While Lord Sacks had long planned for post-chief rabbinate life – “as I said to the government when it asked for my support for the Iraq war ‘have you got an exit plan?’” – he didn’t predict the extent of the interest in his message. “We couldn’t have foreseen the impact of social media and the development of the internet. This has created possibilities that never existed before, you can function globally in a way nobody could before, immediately and at low cost. It is also down to having the greatest team in the world.” But he suggests ever-developing technology – alongside weakening families and communities beyond religious groups – is one reason for increasing numbers of people turning to political extremes. “Humans can get used to almost anything: poverty, disease, war. What they can’t get used to is change. So they search for certainty and those certainties tend to lead them to extremes. When you’re trying to live by simple truths in a complicated world, you do become extreme.” He sees this trend continuing. “We don’t know quite what the impact of, for instance, artificial intelligence is going to be.

12 November 2020 Jewish News



Rabbi Lord Sacks: 1948-2020

duty to unite’ ❝


We are living in a very uncertain world and it’s going to become more uncertain. So it’s more and more important to safeguard support networks and there’s nothing more powerful than strong communities and families.” Lord Sacks is convinced the religious voice is more crucial than ever. “When politics is divisive, religion has a duty to unite.” Despite having his eyes firmly trained on the future and having “made it an absolute point of principle” not to tread on his successor’s toes, he heaps praise on Chief Rabbi [Ephraim] Mirvis for “creative” initiatives, including Shabbat UK and education programmes for women. He also “salutes” the Chief Rabbi’s decision to go to Limmud, despite his own decision not to. “I knew that Limmud is a fraught issue in the Jewish community, rightly or wrongly. For all my 22 years in office I said every rabbi that wanted to go should do so with my blessing. The Chief Rabbi going has not ended the controversy and I knew that my going would not end it either.” He says restrictions are a natural by-product of leadership. “I felt privileged for the whole of my chief rabbinate. But when you’re captain of the team, you have to play by the rules of the team. That means you can’t always say and do what you would do as a private individual. So, for the last four and a half years, being able to speak in my own voice and make my own decisions without necessarily worrying about others

has been exhilarating. People have noticed. I feel a lot younger than I did five years ago.” Having overseen an explosion in Jewish school places under his chief rabbinate, education remains a key focus today – whether through the launch this week of a curriculum bringing together his teachings with classical sources or in America where leaders have asked for his help. “American Jewry will never be like Anglo-Jewry because it’s bigger and has a different political culture. But the bigger respect in which we’re different is that we’ve built day schools. In America now, outside the Orthodox community, the religion is haemorrhaging. In many ways, British Jewry remains strong in a way that American Jewry has historically been strong, but today is beginning to weaken at the edges. We’re trying to tease through what would constitute a major campaign of the kind we did in Anglo-Jewry under Jewish continuity.” Sticking with America, he said he “understood” the criticism over his key role in helping Mike Pence draft his much-lauded Knesset speech. But Sacks said that while “they were looking at a person”, he was focused on issues. “It was the vice-president of America delivering a message on behalf of the American government about recognising Jerusalem. Whoever had been the person I would, if asked to help, have done so.” As he hits the big 7-0, just ahead of the Jewish state, he praised the country as “young for a 70-yearold nation” that thrives “because it empowers the young”. Though the announcement last week of the first official Royal visit came as a surprise at a moment of political deadlock, he praised the “wisdom and courage” of the move during the birthday year. Though he understood the difficulties for the British authorities, he said the Royals “had probably wanted to go before”. In many ways, British Jewry remains strong in a way that American Jewry has historically been strong, but today is beginning to weaken at the edges. The country’s greatest challenge, he insists, remains to find a way to embrace and bring together Israelis of all religious levels. He said: “Israel’s president, a man I hugely admire, has been speaking in recent years about an Israel of four minorities: the secular, the religious, the ultrareligious and the Palestinians who do not share a common narrative. “We are the world’s experts in creating narratives. Where is the vision in Israel of a society that embraces both some very holy people who are to Israel what the priesthood was in biblical Israel, plus a religious and secular public who, though they may be secular, are to a large degree very open indeed to Judaism if it is not forced on them?” As for the birthday boy, there’s little sign of the “semi-retirement” for Lord Sacks that Prince Charles referred to back in 2013. He was recently honoured with a lifetime achievement award at Jewish News’ Night of Heroes, which he describes as “one of the best communal events I’ve ever attended because it lifted our moral and emotional horizons”. He insisted his “young team” keeps him fresh (he wears a Fitbit on his arm to track his healthy lifestyle) and says that continually moving outside his comfort zone – including comedy video with Ashley Blaker – keeps him from going stale. He is currently working on his Chumash, “the biggest project I’ve ever undertaken”, and is promising a five-part series on BBC radio on the big moral issues facing humanity. “I’m looking after my health,” he says. “I’m exercising as hard as I can because this work needs to be done.”

‘I got down on one knee within a month of meeting Elaine’

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks and his wife Elaine married 50 years ago

In a deeply personal interview last year, Lord Sacks and wife Elaine warmly discussed their 50-year marriage Former Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks revealed how he proposed to his wife Elaine within three weeks – while she told how of how he cleaned her muddy boots to help him think. The couple, who married almost 50 years ago after meeting at Cambridge University, exposed the softer side of their relationship in an interview with The Sunday Times Magazine in September 2019. Sacks, who served as Chief Rabbi from 1991 to 2013, said he “bought a ring from Woolworths” and got down on one knee in Oxford Circus within a month of meeting Elaine, who was at the university training to be a radiographer. In their ‘Relative Values’ interview, Sacks said his own father was “impossible to satisfy” and that he had not been “the world’s greatest father” himself. “I was a little distant,” he said. “I travelled a lot as Chief Rabbi and I was always thinking about my next speech.” He also described “a persistent lack of belief in myself”, adding: “There’s some kind of pain, which is perhaps an inherited thing. There is a sadness in Jewish music, a kind of minor key, that I heard when I was two or three years old. “It’s an existential sadness that I can’t eliminate, however hard I try. That’s probably what allows me to communicate with people who are unhappy.” Elaine, who said she was seen as “a little old” when she became a mother at 25, describes giving up her career to raise the couple’s children and the “intrusive” security measures put in place once Sacks became Chief Rabbi. A middle-class girl from Willesden, who was initially shy and reticent at official functions, Elaine recalled how a breakthrough moment came when a friend told her: “They’re terrified of you.” This led to her opening up publicly. She also described how a good boot-cleaning could leave her husband happy. “If we go for a muddy walk, the next day I will find my shoes sparkling clean,” she said. “Jonathan likes cleaning them. If everything is tidy, then his mind is clear to think.”



Jewish News 12 November 2020

Rabbi Lord Sacks: 1948-2020

Being presented with a Jewish News first day cover designed by Alan W Benjamin to mark his retirement as Chief Rabbi in September 2013

Lending a hand during a Mitzvah Day gardening event

Rabbi Sacks’ final AJEX Remembrance Parade in 2012

Rabbi Lord Sacks with Rabbi Naftali Schiff

All should tear their clothes for Lord Sacks BY RABBI LAURA JANNER-KLAUSNER



he Talmud Rabbi Lord Sacks (z”l) loved so greatly, teaches us that when a leading scholar dies, we must tear our garments as we also do for our closest kin when they die. The external tear, a keriyah, contains that wonderful possible double reading in English of a tear in clothing and the tears that flow naturally from our eyes when we feel the pain of loss. My tears flowed when I heard that our national and international intellectual giant and patriarch, Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, died on Shabbat – the timing of his death on a Shabbat, traditionally marking the death of

a tzaddik, a righteous person. I was blessed, as when Rabbi Sacks and I served as heads of our respective denominations, we used to talk Talmud – neither of us being particularly dedicated to small talk. His piercing intellect and gentle compassion shone through. He taught us all through his endless capacity to think and to explain, his learning from past faults and instead to build strong relationships across boundaries. Rabbi Sacks promoted the depth of wisdom of Judaism through the lens of the universal. He articulated and related Jewish ideas to all and his strong but soft voice was greatly loved and revered on national media. I know from many comments, especially within the BBC, how much journalists, presenters and anchors loved working with him. He showed the world the genius our Judaism offers, no matter how people identify themselves. He cared about wider society, and he sought


its improvement through his writing, his position in the House of Lords and his connection with the individuals he encountered. He knew the job of a rabbi is to change the status quo through love, learning and courage. Rabbi Sacks also had a boisterous side, which he delighted in showing. It was a true pleasure to join him as he rumbustiously led Maoz Tzur with such gusto and joy every year at the Downing Street Chanukah event – fist punching the air with joy, bringing to life the mitzvah of ‘taking joy in your festivals’. Personally, our family will always be indebted to Rabbi Sacks for his kindness

to my parents (z’l), co-leading both of their funerals and bringing his compassion into our mourning. My heart is with the Sacks family – Lady Elaine, Joshua, Dina, Gila and their wider family. It is fitting that for this exceptional brain and soul, all of us should make a tear in our clothes. A leader such as him, who elevated the British Jewish community globally, who crossed the boundaries of communities and ideologies, should be mourned universally. Yihe zichro baruch, his memory will continue to bless our lives.

12 November 2020 Jewish News



Rabbi Lord Sacks: 1948-2020

World leaders consider themselves ‘Sacks-ites’ BY LORD JON AND LADY NICOLA MENDELSOHN


onathan was a great friend and mentor to us both. We, like so many, were blessed to have our lives touched and changed by this unique and treasured gift from God. For just over 30 years, we had occasion to encounter him and to work with him across so many fields. Time with him was a joy, but time spent listening to him was truly joyous. Everyone has a Jonathan Sacks story. About a book they read. An inspirational speech listened to. Perhaps a call received. A life cycle moment transformed by his impact. Or words of comfort received at the most difficult of times. We will miss his voice, his smile and even his sighs. For in Jonathan, we truly had a leader to believe in. A decoder to help us understand. A sage to tell us what it meant and an architect who helped us build our lives, our family and our community.

He was a persuasive and passionate advocate of Jewish concerns whose participation in the House of Lords was always received with reverence and respect. His voice was always sure and strong. He provoked the simplest conclusions from a breath-taking ability to master the most complex of notions. He was admired by leaders in society. He was looked up to by all, for not just guidance in the ways of society, but as the most cherished of counsellors. Prime ministers who revelled in debating whatever he wrote – including those whose ideological approach was defined by so many by reference to their own names – who would


in private refer to themselves as Sacks-ites! He was rooted in history, anchored by ethics, a wide appreciation for the vast knowledge accumulated around the world and the foundation stone of Torah. To many, he was the greatest example of how to apply traditional values to a modern setting. But he was more. Everything he did was irrepressibly about hope and the future. He didn’t just think of how to accommodate to the modern era, but was so admired because he was about how to shape the modern era, applying notions, such as morality, to areas where advances always need to be tempered by an appreciation of not just their consequences but of the boundless good that can be achieved by people. His interventions in public debate always imbued the country and the world with thought, knowledge and wisdom. But he was so much more than a social philosopher and had a real ability to provoke ideas and notions of how to address the challenges of markets, science, technology and building community. In most recent years, he was a significant influence on many of the leading innovators,

engineers and business leaders involved in the leading technology companies in the world. They marvelled at someone so comfortable bringing in ideas first written in the Aramaic language while being open to listen and learn what the promise of computer languages such as Javascript and Python could do to change the world. He was truly liked and esteemed for visionary and deep-rooted thoughts and, as ever, hard at work being an important part of shaping a better future. Our hearts go out to Elaine, Joshua, Dina, Gila and the entire family. May they be comforted by the love and good wishes of his many admirers and the certain knowledge that his remarkable legacy lives on not just in the hearts and minds of so many, but in how the world today and the lives of so many is so vastly better for the influence and changes he caused to be made in his lifetime. His immeasurable contribution and extraordinary humanity will live with us forever. May his memory always be a blessing to us all.

At his grandson Elisha’s barmitzvah

Joyously dancing at a family wedding celebration

Photo by Blake Ezra Photography



Jewish News 12 November 2020

Baruch Dayan Ha'Emet Reform Judaism joins Jews globally in mourning the loss of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks z"l. Jews of all denominations continue to benefit tremendously from Rabbi Sacks' profound scholarship, dedication to the Jewish faith and ability to connect to people of all backgrounds. His writing, rooted in his Orthodox Jewish faith, inspires us with its universal values of justice, tolerance, trust in the future generations and unfailing morality. Rabbi Sacks leaves an indelible mark on British Jewry. We have lost a truly great scholar, leader, statesman and friend. We extend our sincere condolences to Lady Elaine, Joshua, Dina, Gila and all of Rabbi Sacks' family. May his memory be a blessing.

‫ברוך דיין האמת‬ Photo Credit: The Office of Rabbi Sacks


Baruch Dayan Ha’Emet All of us at AJEX are devastated to learn of the passing of Rabbi Lord Sacks z’’l. He was a sincere friend to AJEX for many years and always closely supported our aims and endeavours. He was an inspirational spiritual leader to our entire membership. Remembrance was of supreme importance to him. He held our veterans in the highest esteem and always appreciated the education they imparted to schools and to the wider community. He will be deeply missed by all of us in the AJEX veterans’ community. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.

T 020 8202 2323 E headoffice@ajex.org.uk AJEX Charitable Foundation Registered Charity No: 1082148


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Sacks Souvenir Magazine  

Sacks Souvenir Magazine