Jonathan Sacks

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Chief Rabbi the Right Honourable
 The Lord Sacks 
Kt
Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth
PositionChief Rabbi
OrganisationUnited Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth
Began1991
EndedIncumbent
PredecessorThe Lord Jakobovits
Personal details
Born(1948-03-08) 8 March 1948 (age 64)
London, England
NationalityUnited Kingdom British
DenominationOrthodox
SpouseElaine Taylor Sacks
ChildrenJoshua, Dina and Gila
Alma materGonville & Caius College, Cambridge
New College, Oxford
King's College London
SemichaJews' College and Etz Chaim Yeshiva (London)
 
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Chief Rabbi the Right Honourable
 The Lord Sacks 
Kt
Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth
PositionChief Rabbi
OrganisationUnited Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth
Began1991
EndedIncumbent
PredecessorThe Lord Jakobovits
Personal details
Born(1948-03-08) 8 March 1948 (age 64)
London, England
NationalityUnited Kingdom British
DenominationOrthodox
SpouseElaine Taylor Sacks
ChildrenJoshua, Dina and Gila
Alma materGonville & Caius College, Cambridge
New College, Oxford
King's College London
SemichaJews' College and Etz Chaim Yeshiva (London)

Jonathan Henry Sacks, Baron Sacks, Kt (born 8 March 1948, London) is the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth. His Hebrew name is Yaakov Zvi. As the spiritual head of the United Synagogue, the largest synagogue body in the UK, he is the Chief Rabbi of the British Orthodox synagogues, but he is not a religious authority for the Federation of Synagogues or the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations or the other movements, Masorti, Reform and Liberal Judaism.[1][2]

Contents

Family

He is married with three children.[3] One of his daughters, Gila Sacks, is a former Special Adviser to Gordon Brown.

Education

Sacks was educated at St Mary's Primary School and Christ's College Finchley, Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge (MA), New College, Oxford, King's College London (PhD), Jews' College London and Etz Chaim Yeshiva (London).[4]

In addition to the PhD he earned at King's College,[5] he has also been awarded honorary doctorates from the universities of: Cambridge; Glasgow; Haifa; Middlesex; Yeshiva University; Liverpool and St. Andrews, University of Roehampton and is an honorary fellow of Gonville and Caius and King's College London.

Career

In September 1991 Sacks succeeded Lord Jakobovits as Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth. Prior to taking up his current post, Rabbi Sacks was Principal of Jews' College, as well as rabbi of the Golders Green and Marble Arch synagogues.[6]

Sacks heads the Chief Rabbi's Cabinet[4] consisting of fourteen other rabbis who advise him on a number of areas, such as Jewish education, Israel, Jewish-Christian relations, matters relating to the Beit Din (Jewish court), and several other areas of concern to religious members of the Jewish community. The Chief Rabbi's Cabinet meets on a quarterly basis and its members are entitled to represent the Chief Rabbi at public events.

Sacks had been Principal of Jews' College, London, the British rabbinical seminary, as well as rabbi of the Golders Green (1978–1982) and Marble Arch (1983–1990) Synagogues in London. He gained rabbinic ordination from Jews' College as well as from London's Etz Chaim Yeshiva.

Praise and recognition

In September 2001 the Archbishop of Canterbury conferred on him a doctorate of divinity in recognition of his first ten years in the Chief Rabbinate of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth.

In 2004, his book The Dignity of Difference was awarded the Grawemeyer Award for Religion.

Sacks was knighted in the Queen's Birthday Honours in 2005 "For services to the Community and to Inter-faith Relations."[7]

He was made an Honorary Freeman of the London Borough of Barnet in September 2006.[8]

On 13 July 2009 it was announced that Sacks was recommended for a life peerage with a seat in the House of Lords by the House of Lords Appointments Commission.[9][10] He took the style Baron Sacks of Aldgate in the City of London.[11]

He was invited to the wedding of Prince William of Wales and Kate Middleton as a representative for the Jewish community.[12]

Views

Some Orthodox opposition

After the publication of his book The Dignity of Difference, a group of Haredi rabbis, most notably Rabbis Yosef Shalom Elyashiv and Bezalel Rakow, accused Sacks of heresy against what they consider the traditional Orthodox viewpoint (although many Orthodox Jews and others as well consider the Haredi'im sector "ultra-Orthodox" rather than merely "Orthodox," see Haredi article). According to them, some words seemed to imply an endorsement of pure relativism between religions, and that Judaism is not the sole true religion, e.g. "No one creed has a monopoly on spiritual truth." This led him to rephrase more clearly some sentences in the book for its second edition, though he refused to recall books already in the stores.[13]

In his "Preface to the Second Edition" of the book, Sacks wrote that certain passages in the book had been misconstrued: he had already explicitly criticised cultural and religious relativism in his book, and he did not deny Judaism's uniqueness. He also stressed however that mainstream rabbinic teachings teach that wisdom, righteousness and the possibility of a true relationship with God are all available in non-Jewish cultures and religions as an on-going heritage from the covenant that God made with Noah and all his descendants, so the tradition teaches that one does not need to be Jewish to know God or truth or to attain salvation.[14][15] As this diversity of covenantal bonds implies, however, traditional Jewish sources do clearly deny that any one creed has a monopoly on spiritual truth. Monopolistic and simplistic claims of universal truth he has characterized as imperialistic, pagan and Platonic, and not Jewish at all.[16]

Efforts to accommodate Haredi Jews

A book by the British historian and journalist Meir Persoff, Another Way, Another Time, has argued that "Sacks’s top priority has been staying in the good graces of the Haredi, or strictly Orthodox, faction, whose high birthrate has made it the fastest-growing component of British Jewry." But, Persoff has argued, "the Orthodox circles Sacks strives to placate will never consider him Orthodox enough no matter what he does."[17]

Rabbi Gryn and Rabbi Jacobs

Sacks provoked considerable controversy in the Anglo-Jewish community in 1996 when he refused to attend the funeral service of the late Reform Rabbi Hugo Gryn and a private letter he had written in Hebrew, which (in translation) asserted that Gryn was "among those who destroy the faith," was leaked and published. He wrote further that he was an "enemy" of the Reform, Liberal and Masorti movements, leading some to reject the notion that he is "Chief Rabbi" for all Jews in Britain. He attended a memorial meeting for Gryn, a move that brought the wrath of some in the ultra-Orthodox community.[18][19] Rabbi Dow Marmur argued that after attending the memorial service, Sacks then attempted to placate the ultra-Orthodox community, an attempt which Marmur has described as “neurotic and cowardly."[20]

A similar stance was taken by Sacks and his Beth Din when they prevented the retired Rabbi Louis Jacobs, who had helped establish the British branch of the Masorti movement, from being called up for the Reading of the Torah on the Saturday before his grand-daughter's wedding.[21]

Secularism and Europe's changing demographics

Sacks has expressed concern at what he regards as the negative effects of materialism and secularism in European society, arguing that they undermine the basic values of family life and lead to selfishness. In 2009 Sacks gave an address claiming that Europeans have chosen consumerism over the self-sacrifice of parenting children, and that "the major assault on religion today comes from the neo-Darwinians." He argued that Europe is in population decline "because non-believers lack shared values of family and community that religion has."[22][23][24][25]

Consumerism and Steve Jobs

Rabbi Sacks made remarks at an inter-faith reception attended by the Queen, in November 2011, in which he criticised what he believed to be the selfish consumer culture that has only brought unhappiness. "The consumer society was laid down by the late Steve Jobs coming down the mountain with two tablets, iPad one and iPad two, and the result is that we now have a culture of iPod, iPhone, iTune, i, i, i. When you're an individualist, egocentric culture and you only care about 'I,’ you don’t do terribly well." [26][27][28][29] In a later statement, the Chief Rabbi's office said "The Chief Rabbi meant no criticism of either Steve Jobs personally or the contribution Apple has made to the development of technology in the 21st century."[26]

Opposition to gay marriage

In July 2012 a group of prominent UK Jews criticised Sacks for opposing plans to allow civil marriage for gays and lesbians.[30]

Current positions

Previous positions held

Sacks is also a frequent guest on both television and radio, and regularly contributes to the national press. He delivered the 1990 BBC Reith Lectures on The Persistence of Faith.

Works by Jonathan Sacks

References

  1. ^ Abrams, Hester (7 December 1991). "Philosopher is new leader of Britain's Jews : Educational standards, disintegrating family concern rabbi". The Record (Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario): p. C11. "He is officially head of the mainstream United Synagogue, but is not recognized as religious leader by many in the progressive Reform and Liberal movements"
  2. ^ Butt, Riazat (13 July 2009). "Chief Rabbi joins House of Lords". The Guardian (London). http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/jul/13/chief-rabbi-jonathan-sacks-lords. Retrieved 15 August 2009. "The decision to confer a title on Sacks may anger Jews from both the progressive and strictly orthodox branches who do not recognise him as their religious leader"
  3. ^ Sylvester, Rachel; Thomson, Alice. "Jonathan Sacks's solution to family breakdown". The Daily Telegraph. 3 November 2007. Accessed 11 April 2011.
  4. ^ a b Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks. chiefrabbi.org
  5. ^ you’re reading... My Philosophy: Jonathan Sacks. Interview by Julian Baggini
  6. ^ Biography Of The Chief Rabbi. Chiefrabbi.org. Retrieved on 2011-12-03.
  7. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 57665. p. 1. 10 June 2005.
  8. ^ Honorary Freemen of the London Borough of Barnet. Barnet.gov.uk (2009-09-29). Retrieved on 2011-12-03.
  9. ^ Paul, Jonny (July 13, 2009). "UK chief rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks gets peerage". Jerusalem Post. http://fr.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1246443794021&pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull. Retrieved 2009-07-20.
  10. ^ House of Lords Appointments Commission. Lordsappointments.gov.uk (2009-07-13). Retrieved on 2011-12-03.
  11. ^ The London Gazette: no. 59178. p. 15388. 8 September 2009.
  12. ^ "Royal wedding guest list". BBC News. 23 April 2011. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-13175842.
  13. ^ Petre, Jonathan (15 February 2003). "Chief Rabbi revises book after attack by critics". The Daily Telegraph (London). http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1422145/Chief-Rabbi-revises-book-after-attack-by-critics.html. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  14. ^ Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, The Dignity of Difference, 2nd edition, 2003, pp. vii, 52–65
  15. ^ Faith Lectures: Jewish Identity: The Concept of a Chosen People. Chief Rabbi (1990-12-01). Retrieved on 2011-12-03.
  16. ^ See ibid., Chapter 3: "Exorcising Plato's Ghost," and reaffirmed in his most recent book, Future Tense, 2009, Chapter 4: "The Other: Judaism, Christianity and Islam."
  17. ^ Is Sacks Britain’s Last Chief Rabbi? | The Jewish Chronicle. Thejc.com. Retrieved on 2011-12-03.
  18. ^ "Jonathan Sacks: Defender of the faith", The Independent, 8 September 2001
  19. ^ Ian Burrell, "Leaked letter widens schism in Jewry", The Independent, 15 March 1997
  20. ^ Lord Sacks criticised by progressive rabbi | The Jewish Chronicle. Thejc.com (2010-10-22). Retrieved on 2011-12-03.
  21. ^ "Rabbi Dr Louis Jacobs". The Times (London). 4 July 2006. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/obituaries/article682446.ece. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  22. ^ "Europeans too selfish to have children, says Chief Rabbi". The Daily Telegraph (London). 5 November 2009. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/religion/6507782/Europeans-too-selfish-to-have-children-says-Chief-Rabbi.html. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  23. ^ Butt, Riazat (5 November 2009). "Falling birth rate is killing Europe, says chief rabbi Jonathan Sacks". The Guardian (London). http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/nov/05/birth-rate-chief-rabbi-sacks. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  24. ^ Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks: Europe is dying from secularism – Ruth Gledhill – TimesOnline. RichardDawkins.net (2009-11-05). Retrieved on 2011-12-03.
  25. ^ "Selfish culture is killing secular Europe, says Chief Rabbi". Daily Mail (London). 6 November 2009. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1225629/Selfish-culture-killing-secular-Europe-says-Chief-Rabbi.html.
  26. ^ a b Lee Moran 'It's all i, i, i nowadays': Chief Rabbi blasts late Apple boss Steve Jobs for helping to create a selfish consumer society. Mail Online. 21 November 2011
  27. ^ Does this not make the UK's Chief Rabbi a hypocrite? – Downtime. Computerweekly.com (2011-11-23). Retrieved on 2011-12-03.
  28. ^ Chief Rabbi blames Apple for helping create selfish society. Telegraph. Retrieved on 2011-12-03.
  29. ^ Rabbi vs. Steve Jobs: iThis & iThat cause sadness – OTOH: On the other hand. Blogs.computerworlduk.com. Retrieved on 2011-12-03.
  30. ^ http://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/69523/chief-rabbi-lord-sacks-attacked-over-gay-marriage-opposition
  31. ^ The Elijah Interfaith Institute – Jewish Members of the Board of World Religious Leaders. Elijah-interfaith.org (1991-09-01). Retrieved on 2011-12-03.

External links

Jewish titles
Preceded by
Lord Jakobovits
Chief Rabbi of Great Britain and the Commonwealth
1991–present
Succeeded by
Incumbent