Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks passes away

November 8, 2020 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks passed away yesterday (Saturday) at the age of 72.

Former Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom Jonathan Sacks. Credit: Rabbisacks.org

He served as the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth from 1991 to 2013.

President of Israel Reuven Rivlin said: “I was deeply saddened to hear of the loss of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks ז”ל, a man of thought and a man of words, an original teacher and of creativity, a man of truth, whose generosity and compassion built bridges between people.

Rabbi Sacks bravely faced difficult questions and always found the right words to illuminate the Torah and explain its paths.  We will always remember his warnings against violence in the name of God, and his belief that we have the power to heal a fractured world.

My condolences to his family, to British Jewry, and to his many students. May his memory be a blessing.”

Current Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis with Lord Jonathan Sacks

Current Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis‘s office announced: “Today the world has lost a Torah luminary and intellectual giant who had a transformative global impact. Rabbi Lord Sacks was an extraordinary ambassador for Judaism, helping many to understand and be proud of their heritage.

He will be deeply missed, not just within the Jewish world, which benefited immeasurably from his teachings, but far more widely, by all those whose lives he enlightened with his wisdom, profundity and inspiration. Our hearts go out to Lady Elaine, Joshua, Dina, Gila and the entire family. May they be comforted by the knowledge that his remarkable legacy will live on in the hearts and minds of the countless people he inspired.”

The President the Board of Deputies of British Jews Marie van der Zyl commented: “We are distraught at the news of the passing of Rabbi Lord Sacks ZT”L. Rabbi Sacks was a giant of both the Jewish community and wider society. Our hearts go out to his wife Elaine, his children Joshua, Dina and Gila, his brothers and the whole family.”

In Australia, Rabbi Yaakov Glasman, president of the Rabbinical RAA and the Rabbinical Councils of NSW and Victoria told J-Wire: “The Rabbinical Association of Australasia is deeply saddened by the passing of Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks whose teachings inspired a generation of Jews and will continue for decades to come. Rabbi Sacks’ ability to apply the timeless and ancient teachings of our Torah to the fast-moving and ever-evolving world in which lived was remarkable. Rabbi Sacks’ impact on Jewish communities across the globe has been enormous and he will be sorely missed. We wish our sincerest condolences to his family and hope they find comfort in the knowledge that his positive influence has been so profound to the many who had the privilege of being touched by his deep wisdom.”

Former Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks, HRH Prince Charles, Chief Rabbi Mirvis photo:Yakir Zur

The Union for Progressive Judaism released a statement writing: “Earlier this morning, the world learned of the passing on Shabbat of Harav Ya’akov Zvi ben David Arieh – former Chief Rabbi of the UK, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.  Rabbi Sacks was a “gadol” – a giant, both within the Jewish world and the wider society.  He gained international recognition for his erudition, moral clarity, the depth of his scholarship, his highly acclaimed books, publications and podcasts, each a reflection upon the role of faith and Torah in the modern age.

Many were first introduced to Rabbi Sacks’ global perspective in his 2002 work, “The Dignity of Difference” published in the wake of September 11th.   In it, he spoke sensitively to an enflamed world when affirming his foundational belief in One God that “does (and should), speak in many languages and allows for many paths to God’s presence.”

The Union for Progressive Judaism and the Assembly of Rabbis and Cantors joins with k’lal Yisrael – the entirety of the Jewish people and people of conscience around the world, in mourning his passing following a short illness at the age of 72.

UPJ Co-President David Knoll said: “The world is richer for the manifold contributions of this gracious, intellectual giant, who I had the honour to meet when he visited Sydney some years ago.”

Zecher tsaddik li’v’racha – May the memory of the righteous be a blessing.”

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry released this statement: “With the passing of Lord Jonathan Sacks, a scholar, writer and former Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, the world has lost a towering moral and intellectual figure at a time when it is most in need of people of his calibre.

For Rabbi Sacks there was no hard and fast division between Jewish and secular knowledge.  There was just knowledge.  More important was the wisdom that comes with knowledge, and he had it in abundance.  His favoured adage was Torah vehokhmah, ‘Torah and Wisdom’. As one of his admirers noted, “Torah, for Jonathan Sacks represents the particularistic, inherited teachings of Judaism, while hokhmah (wisdom) refers to the universal realm of the sciences and humanities.”

He had an extraordinary command of Jewish learning, moral philosophy and ethics, and a wonderful ability to convey his ideas to a wide audience, regardless of their level of education.  When he visited Australia some years ago, religious leaders and others from many faith communities came to hear him speak and were overflowing in their praise of his erudition and insights.

His books were widely quoted, most especially The Dignity of Difference, a plea for humanity, compassion and mutual respect.  In an age of material abundance and spiritual poverty, Jonathan Sacks’ writings and radio broadcasts made accessible his profound understanding of the human condition and the nature of spirituality and morality.  For this, he was revered by millions of people of all backgrounds and religions.

The Jewish world, and the whole of humanity, has been left much the poorer for his passing.

Yaakov Hagoel, Chairman of the World Zionist Organization added: “I was saddened to learn of the passing of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks. A proud Jewish and Zionist leader. A thinker who knew how to connect wisely and sensitively between the Torah and people around the world, and touched each and every one personally.

A great loss to the Jewish community in Great Britain and to the Jewish World in general.”

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks:  born London 8 March 1948, died 7 November 2020

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