Progressively Speaking: Rabbi Sacks brought so much to our Jewish world

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Progressively Speaking: Rabbi Sacks brought so much to our Jewish world

President of Liberal Judaism, Rabbi Dr Andrew Goldstein, reflects on the passing of former Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks, and his contribution to the UK Jewish community

Former Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks.
(Blake-Ezra Photography Ltd)
Former Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks. (Blake-Ezra Photography Ltd)

As president of Liberal Judaism,  I share the appreciation of so many within our community, and far beyond, for the life and work and personality of Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.  

He brought so much recognition to – and respect for – Anglo-Jewry through his erudition, his broadcasting and lectures. 

His intellectual contribution to modern Orthodox Judaism was immense and his wisdom and writings were appreciated by Jews and non-Jews across the spectrum of religious belief and within the secular academic world. 

Who could not be impressed by the erudition, humour, good sense and Jewish warmth that came over in his regular Thought For the Day broadcasts? His lectures were easy to follow, full of information and thought-provoking. His articles and commentaries were invariably interesting, often with an idea on which to base a sermon or a discussion. His ability to bring classical or modern Jewish quotations, or reference to a very wide range of literature, to a talk on contemporary social issues was impressive. 

His books were valuable additions to modern Jewish thought and were rightly admired by the general public. 

One of his early books brought a certain disenchantment to the Progressive Jewish community. The Dignity of Difference was quite rightly praised for its inclusivity, but then we thought – if so open to the truth and validity of other faiths, what about Liberal Judaism?

We are not so different, but did not seem to have a place in his thinking. Of course, he also got into trouble for this book from the Charedi community. It’s not easy being a Chief Rabbi in the modern world. 

I recall joining him at interfaith gatherings and seeing the respect shown to him and the easy way he mixed in company. The great and the good had great respect for him and his congregants adored him. On a personal level, he was always friendly and collegial towards me. I recall several occasions when his quit wit and jokes brought peals of laughter from the congregation or audience. 

He was an intellectual giant, but with a human face. He brought so much to the Jewish and non-Jewish world – he will be greatly missed, above all by his wife and constant supporter, Elaine, and by his family. 

  •  Rabbi Dr Andrew Goldstein is president of Liberal Judaism 

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