Chief Rabbi captivates the Great

January 26, 2012 by Henry Benjamin
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Sydney’s The Great Synagogue was packed to capacity last night as the Lord Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth entered into conversation with the ABC’s Dr Norman Swan on “The Great Partnership: God, Science and the Search for Meaning”.

Dr Norman Swan and Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

The conversation will be broadcast  on Radio National on Wednesday evening at 8p.m. and ABC are producing a podcast.

The three times Walkley-award winning medical and science broadcaster took to the stage with Lord Sacks without any prior meeting or discussion with him on the topic for discussion.

The result was a spontaneous  cross-exchange between two great minds which kept the audience of over 1,000 totally enthralled.

The event, hosted jointly by The Great Synagogue and The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, was attended by the NSW State Governor Professor Marie Bashir, Federal MP Malcolm Turnbull, NSW State Attorney-General Greg Smith, State MP Gabrielle Upton, Anglican Archbishop of Sydney Peter Jensen and amongst many others Sister Giovanni Farquer representing Cardinal George Pell.

The conversation stuck to its format criss-crossing rapidly the paths of religion and science.

NSW Governor Marie Bashir meets Lord and Lady Sacks pic Henry Benjamin

The Chief Rabbi referred to the tremendous contribution Islam had made to the world in the 12th century with relation to the rediscovery of wisdom and expressed his hope that the 21st century may see this revived. He stated clearly that religion should be denied power and expressed his opposition to concepts of dualism which include heaven and hell remarking that dualism leads to demonisation. The Chief Rabbi made clear the distinction between people who are righteous and those who are righteousness saying: “They often seem very similar but they are actually opposite. The self-righteous look down on people, the righteous look up to people.  The self-righteous condemn, the righteous forgive. The self-righteous see bad in people, the righteous see the good. The self-righteous make us feel diminished, the righteous make us feel enlarges. Always stay away from the self-righteous.”

Lord Sacks said that “God has empowered us to make this world a better place”.  On the Holocaust he asked “how did Humanity let it happen?”

Lord Sacks makes a point pic: Henry Benjamin

This morning the Chief Rabbi visited The Central Synagogue in Bondi where he davened Shacharit and was called to the Torah.

This was followed by a private tour of the Sydney Jewish Museum.

Premier Barry O’Farrell sent a special message which J-Wire publishes in full:

The Chief Rabbi (left) receives an Aliyah at Central with Rabbi Yossi Friedman pic: Henry Benjamin

I am pleased to send best wishes on this auspicious occasion on behalf of the Government and people of New South Wales.
Baruch Haba – an especially warm Australian welcome – to the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, Lord Jonathan Sacks, coinciding with Australia
Day celebrations.

Soon after being elected Premier, I was privileged to be invited to the Great Synagogue to not only visit this majestic and beautiful place of worship, but to also learn more about your wonderful religious traditions passed down through generations.
I stood in awe on the Bimah as Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence and President, Michael Gold, opened the Aron Hakodesh – the Holy Ark – and unscrolled a sacred Sefer Torah, movingly describing its ancient writings as the foundation of Judaism.

Rabbi David Freedman, Rabbi Levi Wolff, Rabbi Yehuda Niassoff, the Chief Rabbi, Cantor Shimon Farkas, Central Synagogue president Danny Taibel

The Sedra read from the Torah last Shabbat was Parsha Va’era, which refers to biblical days when Moses exemplified the care and leadership he gave to his people and set the standard for Jewish leaders ever since.
Similarly, Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks is renowned for his outstanding leadership for the betterment of our world, expressing his views about the need to maintain family values and also to strengthen interfaith relations.

The Chief Rabbi and The Great Synagogue's Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence pic: Henry Benjamin

I know that the Talmud teaches that acts of goodness are trademarks of the Jewish soul and on the eve of Australia Day it is significant to mention that Oz is the Hebrew word for strength.
The Great Synagogue – or the Great as it is affectionately known – is the mother congregation of Australian Jewry, providing a mighty beacon of both goodness and strength which shines on the community as a whole.
Australian Jews have a proud history of loyalty and commitment dating back to the First Fleet, making an outstanding contribution to all facets of Australian life.
Governors-General, Sir Isaac Isaacs and Sir Zelman Cowen, and military chief, Sir John Monash, are stellar examples of this Jewish contribution benefitting all Australians and symbolise the deep respect and admiration earned in our parliaments, in professional and business life, in the arts and sports.
As Australians, we are all fortunate to be able to live and go about our daily lives peacefully in democratic freedom and my visit to Israel showed how much its citizens share the same wish, with the hope of achieving Shalom – a truly peaceful life.
In 2012, as Israel celebrates its 64th anniversary, I join in your prayers that this will soon be achieved.




Listen to the full conversation below….


[audio:|titles=1201 Chief Rabbi Great pc]


One Response to “Chief Rabbi captivates the Great”
  1. Don says:

    This is fascinating, but it’s a pity there is so much echo! When I heard it on RN two nights ago, there was no echo, so, is there an audio of *that* presentation available please?
    Radio National is one of my favourite ABC stations, keep up the great work!

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