How a bursary 52 years ago inspired Jonathan Sacks to become a rabbi
search

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

How a bursary 52 years ago inspired Jonathan Sacks to become a rabbi

In December 1968, the B’nai B’rith First Lodge of England bestowed the future Chief Rabbi with an award that allowed him to travel to the US and meet the Lubavicher Rebbe

Stephen is the Jewish News' Foreign Editor

Induction of  Rabbi  Sacks to membership of the Lodge with Gerald Kirsh President of First Lodge at the time.
Induction of Rabbi Sacks to membership of the Lodge with Gerald Kirsh President of First Lodge at the time.

Among the memories of the late Lord Jonathan Sacks retrieved from archives in recent days is a telling citation from 52 years ago, which tells how the former Chief Rabbi won a Bursary Award from a Jewish lodge.

In December 1968, after excelling as a third year student at Cambridge University studying moral sciences, the B’nai B’rith First Lodge of England gave him what would prove to be a crucial helping hand.

The money let him travel to America, where he met the great 20th century Lubavicher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, whose influence had a profound effect on the young scholar.

Menachem Mendel Schneerson – the Lubavitcher Rebbe. (Credit: Wikipedia/Mordecai baron)

Records from the time show that Sacks’ results had put him on track for a first-class honours, prompting the awards committee to pay for him to spend time at Yeshiva University in New York to study rabbinical theology and its history.

The bulletin also notes that Sacks had also been “interested in studying the community structure in America compared to ours”.

During his address to the Lodge in the late 1970s, Sacks said that encounter had been “a significant factor” in his decision to become a rabbi.

“It changed the course of his career,” said vice-president Dr Martin Aaron, who found the paperwork. “On several occasions since, he jokingly blamed First Lodge.”

Sacks was inducted as a member of First Lodge in July 1992, the ceremony led by Gerald Kirsh, who was president at the time. In February 2010, Sacks was guest of honour at the Lodge’s centenary dinner at the Great Hall at Lincoln’s Inn.

Bulletin from B’Nai B’Rith advertising the bursary award

“He spoke with his usual eloquence to over 320 guests, some joining us from several B’nai B’rith European Lodges,” recalls Aaron. “He said it was First Lodge that had facilitated him becoming a rabbi. Very appropriately, he was presented with our award for outstanding achievement within and beyond the Jewish community.”

He added that Sacks’ death was “not only a loss to this Lodge, it will leave a tremendous void in the Jewish community”.

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...

Engaging

Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.

Celebrating

There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.

Pioneering

In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.

Campaigning

Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish News also produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more:
comments