Tribute: Rabbi Lord Sacks’ legacy for Jewish education

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Tribute: Rabbi Lord Sacks’ legacy for Jewish education

Yavneh executive headteacher, Spencer Lewis, reflects on 30 years of friendship with the former chief rabbi and his contribution to learning

Spencer Lewis
A school courtyard
A school courtyard

I first met Rabbi Dr Sacks as an under graduate at Jews College, over 30 years ago and it was whilst initially struggling to understand most of the philosophical concepts he was teaching that I came to understand just how lucky I was to be there.

He came alive during those lectures, he inspired and challenged us and it was clear that he himself loved every minute.

The vision of his secretary appearing at the end of each lecture to remind him of his next appointment and him trying desperately to avoid her disapproving gaze so that he could spend a few extra minutes with us, his students is something I will always remember.

Everyone knows how important Rabbi Sacks thought Jewish schools are and how his mantra of, ‘needing schools to defend a civilization’ was at the very heart of what he held dear. Not everyone knows how he would annually visit his Jewish schools to talk to the pupils to inspire them to think, to learn and to act. To see Rabbi Sacks interact with young people, answering their questions by really listening to them was completely inspiring, he taught me that and I will always be grateful for it. The cleverest person I have ever met, there appeared to be no subject with which he was not knowledgeable and this made young people warm to him and want to hear more.

Spencer Lewis

Rabbi Sacks always encouraged me personally; he was interested in what I was doing and was always kind. While Chief Rabbi his regular telephone calls to express his pride in what the school was achieving were very special and always inspired me.

Jewish education has lost its greatest champion.  However, he has set us on the path, given us the tools and it is now our job to ensure that our schools continue to inspire the next generation.

Twenty five years ago Rabbi Sacks asked, ‘Will we have Jewish Grandchildren’, through his inspiration Jewish schools will continue to do everything they can to make sure that we will.

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