Owning Judaism: Preserving Faith With Lord Jonathan Sacks

October 31, 2011 7:52 pm 0 comments

Lord Jonathan Sacks addressed a gathering at Manhattan's 92nd St Y. Photo: Maxine Dovere.

Chief Rabbi of the Commonwealth, Lord Jonathan Sacks was interviewed by Professor and author Ari Goldman at the 92nd St Y October 30. Beginning with comments on the essential role Jewish education plays in the preservation of Judaism, Sacks said the “fourth generation is without memories and must be educated. If you want to have Jewish identity, you have to own it.”

Segwaying from the sacred to the secular, interviewer Ari Goldman asked about the connection between faith and social responsibility, and how the two concepts work together. “Social capital,” said Rabbi Sacks, “is alive and well – and exists in churches and synagogues.” Empirical evidence indicates that membership in a religious community is the most effective way to promote good neighborliness. “Religion works – whether you believe in it or not.” He stressed that community, not theology, seems to be the determinant. Commenting on America’s obsession with “God,” the Rabbi mused that in America, “everyone has to talk about God – in England it‘s different … we don’t do God.”

Sharing a bit of social gossip, the Rabbi recalled his enjoyment of the Jewish (some might say “Old Testament) based music included in the recent royal wedding ceremony, and noted that he had enjoyed watching the Queen shepping nachas from the kindelach. (He attended the ceremony in a “civic capacity,” representing the Jewish community as loyal subjects of Her Majesty, the Queen.)

The Rabbi recently authored a new Siddur and the Machzor, which, he said, “gives us God back and makes prayer a complete experience.” His editions add commentary, introduction, and explanation. “Prayer is our blue tooth connection with God – the connecting energy.” We “must rediscover how to pray.” Prayer and ritual, he said, were a “constant” that provides a “readiness… constantly making you aware of something bigger than you – the antidote to individualism. Prayer was a major force in the continuity of the Jewish people and its return, after 2000 years, to the land of its origin.”

Commenting on the international protests from Wall Street to Tel Aviv to London, Sacks said that the “global economy is widely disproportionate, thus unsustainable in the long term. CEO’s no longer have a direct relationship with those who work for them. New wealth has no organic connection to anything human.” While Judaism, said the Rabbi, “is in favor of wealth creation, there is a codicil – wealth must go hand-in-hand with responsibility. We must acknowledge the need to share the blessings: if you are a leading Jewish business person, you have to be a role model of integrity.”

Questioned about diversity within the Jewish community, Sacks called it “a fundamental issue of two centuries.” As Chief Rabbi, he has developed 2 principles: on all matters that affect us as Jews, we will work together;  on all matters that touch on our differences, we will agree to differ – but with respect. He “will not allow any rabbi to say anything derogatory about any other movement,” and is willing to dialogue with all – even secularists like Amos Oz.

Saying he “believes in every Jew,” Sacks was challenged to discuss the place of Gay and Lesbian Jews in the community. He “was very moved” said the Rabbi, by the situation of Orthodox Gays and Lesbians, and was trying to develop “an understanding relationship.”

Asked the inevitable question about the Shalit exchange, Rabbi Sacks said “it could be said that Israel is politically wrong, and the exchange could be perceived by Hamas as a victory. Even according to Halachah, it could be said that Israel is wrong.” “But,” he continued, “I am proud to be a member of a people that can do a wrong thing like that.” “Freedom demands an unconditional respect for every individual life.  Israel has shown the world that if you want freedom, you just give value to every human life,” he concluded.

Sacks will retire in 2013 at 65 and says he has no plans to slow down. He simply has “no time to be Chief Rabbi.” He wants to “go more global,” spending time in the United States and in Israel, does not “want any more politics” and looks forward to teaching Torah.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Middle East Hamas Commander Reportedly Urges Hezbollah to Join Forces Against Israel

    Hamas Commander Reportedly Urges Hezbollah to Join Forces Against Israel

    JNS.org – Five months after Israeli forces tried to assassinate Hamas military commander Mohammed Deif in Gaza, Deif appears to have signed a letter that the terrorist group claims he wrote in hiding. The letter, addressed to Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, expressed Deif’s condolences for the death of Hezbollah terrorists during Sunday’s reported Israeli airstrike in Syria. Deif is said to have survived multiple assassination attempts, but he has not been seen in public for years. According to the Hezbollah-linked Al-Manar [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Shlomo Carlebach Musical Has the Soul to Heal Frayed Race Relations

    Shlomo Carlebach Musical Has the Soul to Heal Frayed Race Relations

    JNS.org – The cracks that had been simply painted over for so long began to show in Ferguson, Mo., in November 2014, but in truth they had begun to open wide much earlier—on Saturday, July 13, 2013. That is when a jury in Sanford, Fla., acquitted George Zimmerman of culpability for the death of a 17-year-old black man, Trayvon Martin. The cracks receded from view over time, as other news obscured them. Then came the evening of Aug. 9, 2014, [...]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada ‘Homeland’ Season Finale Stirs Controversy After Comparing Menachem Begin to Taliban Leader

    ‘Homeland’ Season Finale Stirs Controversy After Comparing Menachem Begin to Taliban Leader

    A controversial scene in the season finale of Homeland sparked outrage by comparing former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to a fictional Taliban leader, the UK’s Daily Mail reported. In the season 4 finale episode, which aired on Dec. 21, CIA black ops director Dar Adal, played by F. Murray Abraham, justifies a deal he made with a Taliban leader by referencing Begin. He makes the remarks in a conversation with former CIA director Saul Berenson, a Jewish character played by Mandy [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Spirituality/Tradition Placing Matisyahu Back Within a Life of Observance

    Placing Matisyahu Back Within a Life of Observance

    Shining Light on Fiction During the North Korea-Sony saga, we learned two important lessons. The first is that there are two sides to this story, and neither of them are correct because ultimately we should have neither inappropriate movies nor dictators. The second is that we cannot remain entirely fixed on the religious world, but we also must see beyond the external, secular view of reality. It’s important to ground our Torah-based thoughts into real-life activism. To view our act [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Nine Decades of Moses at the Movies

    Nine Decades of Moses at the Movies

    JNS.org – Hollywood has had its share of big-budget biblical flops, but until now, the Exodus narrative has not been among them. Studios have brought Moses to the big screen sparingly, but in ways that defined the image and character of Moses for each generation of audiences. The first biblical epic In 1923, director Cecil B. DeMille left it to the American public to decide the subject of his next movie for Paramount. DeMille received a letter from a mechanic [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Exodus on Screen (REVIEW)

    Exodus on Screen (REVIEW)

    JNS.org – The story of the Exodus from Egypt is a tale as old as time itself, to borrow a turn of phrase. It’s retold every Passover, both at the seder table and whenever “The Ten Commandments” is aired on television. But the latest adaptation—Ridley Scott’s epic film, “Exodus: Gods and Kings”—fails to meet expectations. Scott’s “Exodus” alters the source material to service the story and ground the tale, but the attempt to reinvent the biblical narrative becomes laughable. Moses [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Lifestyle ‘Jewish Food Movement’ Comes of Age

    ‘Jewish Food Movement’ Comes of Age

    JNS.org - In December 2007, leaders of the Hazon nonprofit drafted seven-year goals for what they coined as the “Jewish Food Movement,” which has since been characterized by the increased prioritization of healthy eating, sustainable agriculture, and food-related activism in the Jewish community. What do the next seven years hold in store? “One thing I would like to see happen in the next seven years is [regarding] the issue of sugar, soda, and obesity, [seeing] what would it be like to rally the [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Education Seeds of ‘Start-Up Nation’ Cultivated by Israel Sci-Tech Schools

    Seeds of ‘Start-Up Nation’ Cultivated by Israel Sci-Tech Schools

    JNS.org – Forget the dioramas. How about working on an Israeli Air Force drone? That’s exactly the kind of beyond-their-years access enjoyed by students at the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) industrial vocational high school run by Israel Sci-Tech Schools, the largest education network in the Jewish state. More than 300 students (250 on the high school level and 68 at a two-year vocational academy) get hands-on training in the disciplines of aviation mechanics, electricity and energy control, and unmanned air [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.