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 US & Canada Israeli Actress Gal Gadot in Talks to Star in Ben-Hur Remake

    Israeli Actress Gal Gadot in Talks to Star in Ben-Hur Remake

    Israeli actress Gal Gadot is in negotiations to take on the female lead role in the remake of the 1959 classic Ben-Hur, according to The Hollywood Reporter. If the deal is finalized Gadot will play Esther, a slave and Ben-Hur’s love interest. Actor Jack Huston will star as the Jewish prince who is betrayed into slavery by his childhood friend Messala, played by Toby Kebbell. Ben-Hur fights for his freedom and vengeance with the help of Morgan Freeman’s character, who trains Ben-Hur how to win at chariot-racing. [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Young Israelis Try to Crowd-Fund Their Way to Major League Baseball Playoffs

    Young Israelis Try to Crowd-Fund Their Way to Major League Baseball Playoffs

    JNS.org – Baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie are the American dream. So why do two young men who have built their lives in Israel have a GoFundMe crowd-funding webpage with the urgent message that they need $3,000 to travel to the U.S. to watch the Kansas City Royals and Baltimore Orioles square off for Major League Baseball’s (MLB) American League championship? Brothers Naftali and Yoni Schwartz, 27 and 25, respectively, are Kansas City natives. Even though they made aliyah with their [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Sports Race Cars Speed Through Jerusalem in Amazing Exhibition

    Race Cars Speed Through Jerusalem in Amazing Exhibition

    Some 3,000 years ago, King David probably never imagined cars racing at 240 kilometers per hour (150 miles per hour) through the ancient capital of the Jewish people. But on Monday and Tuesday, October 6-7, thousands of Israelis lined the streets to watch Porsche, Audi, and Ferrari race cars fly through the capital against the backdrop of the Tower of David, the Old City Walls, and other city landmarks. The second annual non-competitive Jerusalem Formula One Road Show had been [...]

    Read more →
  • Israel Sports NBA Superstar LeBron James Says He Wants to Visit Israel

    NBA Superstar LeBron James Says He Wants to Visit Israel

    Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James expressed interest in visiting Israel someday, local news site Cleveland.com reported on Sunday. Speaking to Israeli reporters before the Cleveland Cavaliers’ preseason debut against Maccabi Tel Aviv, the NBA star said he had never visited the Jewish state but “I want to look forward to going there if I get an opportunity to.” When asked by an Israeli reporter if there was “any chance that LeBron James and Cleveland comes to Tel Aviv,” the athlete said [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Florida Rabbi Dominates Former Basketball Star Congressman in Hoops Showdown (VIDEO)

    Florida Rabbi Dominates Former Basketball Star Congressman in Hoops Showdown (VIDEO)

    A Florida-based Chabad rabbi put former basketball star, U.S. Congressman Curt Clawson to shame on the court when the two faced off one-on-one recently. A YouTube video, posted online on Tuesday, shows Rabbi Fishel Zaklos of Chabad of Naples shooting hoops with the Florida politician, who played basketball in high school and at Purdue University in Indiana. The game took place in the parking lot of the Chabad Jewish center run by Zaklos. During the 1-minute clip, Zaklos scores two impressive [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada David Blatt’s Cleveland Cavaliers Rout Maccabi Tel Aviv, 107-80

    David Blatt’s Cleveland Cavaliers Rout Maccabi Tel Aviv, 107-80

    JNS.org – Less than five months after leading Maccabi Tel Aviv to its sixth European basketball title, David Blatt, now the head coach of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, routed his former team in an exhibition game on Sunday, with the Cavaliers dominating Maccabi 107-80 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. The 20,562 fans in attendance witnessed Lebron James’s first appearance in a Cavaliers uniform since he left the club in free agency for the Miami Heat four years ago. [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Jewish New York Giants Guard Plans to Fast on Yom Kippur

    Jewish New York Giants Guard Plans to Fast on Yom Kippur

    New York Giants offensive guard Geoff Schwartz said on Wednesday that he will not eat anything between sundown Friday and sundown Saturday in observation of Yom Kippur, ESPN reported. “If I was playing, I wouldn’t fast, because I’ve got to be able to fuel myself to play,” said the Jewish athlete, who is on short-term leave due to a toe injury. “But it’s not that tough, really. I’ll eat dinner at 5:00 Friday, then I’ll go to services and I’ll just [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Personalities How a Jewish Leader With 3 Months to Live Created a ‘Seminar’ on Life

    How a Jewish Leader With 3 Months to Live Created a ‘Seminar’ on Life

    JNS.org – What would you do if you found out that you had only three more months to live? Gordon Zacks was a successful businessman, a leader of Jewish life, and a confidante and adviser to President George H.W. Bush. He knew that he had prostate cancer, but doctors advised him that it was very slow-growing and nothing to worry about. Then came the day when the doctors told him his cancer metastasized to his liver, and that he had [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.