Lord Sacks has revealed how a stranger rescued him from drowning while on honeymoon – and says 50 years on he “still shakes” from the memory of it.
The former Chief Rabbi recalled the incident, which occurred while on holiday in Italy with his new wife Elaine, in his new book, Morality.
He would have almost certainly drowned, after plunging under water at least five times, had his rescuer not spotted that Sacks was in peril.
Speaking to Jewish News, Sacks said: “It was scary, I have to tell you. I mean going under for the fifth time and there being no-one nearby. I still to this day don’t know how somebody saw me. I just don’t know. It scares the life out of me.
“Boy, do I still visualise it, and this is almost 50 years later. I still shake from it.”
When asked what he would say to his rescuer if he was ever found, Sacks responded: “I would really, really want to say thank you.”
The highly-respected theologian and author, who served as Chief Rabbi of Great Britain and the Commonwealth from 1991 to 2013, recollected the ordeal in his latest book, which explores how society has changed from having collective responsibility to focusing on the individual.
“We have moved very largely from being a ‘we’ society to an ‘I’ society. We’ve been very good on individualism, but much less good on collective responsibility.
“I felt that what was happening was the cultural equivalent of climate change and we are now beginning to count the costs.”
Asked what his thoughts were on the public’s reaction to the coronavirus outbreak – particularly reports of supermarket shelves being stripped bare of handwash products and people ‘panic buying’ – Sacks said: “I think coronavirus is going to test our capacity to work for the benefit of others.”
He added that he hoped his book would help people engage more with one another and not just focus on their own individual needs.
“All you need to do is change some minds and you begin to change a generation,” said Sacks.
Read the full interview with Lord Sacks in this week’s Jewish News.
Morality: Restoring The Common Good In Divided Times by Jonathan Sacks is published by Hodder, priced £20 (hardback) and available from 12 March.