Jonathan Sacks: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 Lord Sacks
Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth

Rabbi Sacks at the 2006 National Poverty Hearing
Position Chief Rabbi
Organisation United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth
Began 1991
Ended Incumbent
Predecessor Sir Immanuel Jakobovits
Personal details
Born March 8, 1948 (1948-03-08) (age 62)
London, England
Nationality United Kingdom British
Denomination Orthodox
Alma mater Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge
New College, Oxford
King's College London
Semicha Jews' College and Etz Chaim Yeshiva (London)

Sir 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 mainstream British orthodox synagogues, but not the religious authority for the Federation of Synagogues or the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations or the progressive movements, Masorti, Reform and Liberal Judaism.[1][2]



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).[3]

In addition to the PhD he earned at King's College,[4] he has also been awarded honorary doctorates from the universities of: Cambridge; Glasgow; Haifa; Middlesex; Yeshiva University; Liverpool and St. Andrews, and is an honorary fellow of Gonville and Caius and King's College London.


Sacks heads the Chief Rabbi's Cabinet[3] 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 Beth Din (Jewish court), and several other areas of concern to 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 world's oldest rabbinical seminary, as well as rabbi of the Golders Green (197882) and Marble Arch (198390) Synagogues in London. He gained rabbinic ordination from Jews' College as well as from London's Etz Chaim Yeshiva (London).

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 List in 2005 'for services to the Community and to Inter-faith Relations'.[5]

He was made an Honorary Freeman of the London Borough of Barnet in September 2006.[6]

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.[7][8] He took the style Baron Sacks of Aldgate in the City of London.[9]



Orthodox opposition

A group of rabbis, most notably Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, accused Sacks of heresy against the tradition of Orthodox Judaism in his book The Dignity of Difference, in which he wrote words that seemed to imply to them 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.[10]

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.[11] 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.[12]

Rabbi Gryn and Rabbi Jacobs

Sacks provoked considerable controversy in the Anglo-Jewish community 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.[13][14] 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 granddaughter's wedding.[15]

Secularism and Europe's changing demographics

Sacks is deeply concerned with the corrosive 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."[16][17][18][19]

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

  • Traditional alternatives: Orthodoxy and the future of the Jewish people (1989)
  • Tradition in an Untraditional Age (1990)
  • Persistence of Faith (1991)
  • Arguments for the Sake of Heaven (1991)
  • Crisis and Covenant (1992)
  • One People? (1993)
  • Will We Have Jewish Grandchildren? (1994)
  • Community of Faith (1995)
  • Torah Studies: Discourses by Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson (1996)
  • The Politics of Hope (1997 revised 2nd edition 2000)
  • Morals and Markets (1999)
  • Celebrating Life (2000)
  • Radical Then, Radical Now (published in America as A Letter in the Scroll) (2001)
  • Dignity of Difference (2002) (Grawemeyer Award winner)
  • The Chief Rabbi's Haggadah (2003)
  • To Heal a Fractured World - The Ethics of Responsibility (2005)
  • The Home We Build Together - Recreating Society (2007)
  • The Koren Sacks Siddur (2009)
  • Covenant & Conversation: A Weekly Reading of the Jewish Bible (2009)
  • Future Tense (2009)


  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. ^ "Chief Rabbi joins House of Lords". The Guardian. 13 July 2009. 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. ^ a b Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks
  4. ^
  5. ^ London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 57665, p. 1, 10 June 2005.
  6. ^ Honorary Freemen of the London Borough of Barnet
  7. ^ Paul, Jonny (July 13, 2009). "UK chief rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks gets peerage". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2009-07-20. 
  8. ^ House of Lords Appointments Commission
  9. ^ London Gazette: no. 59178, p. 15388, 8 September 2009.
  10. ^
  11. ^ Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, The Dignity of Difference, 2nd edition, 2003, pp. vii, 52-65; see also and
  12. ^ 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."
  13. ^ "Jonathan Sacks: Defender of the faith", The Independent, 8 September 2001
  14. ^ Ian Burrell, "Leaked letter widens schism in Jewry", The Independent, 15 March 1997
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^,4572,n,n
  19. ^

External links

Jewish titles
Preceded by
Lord Jakobovits
Chief Rabbi of Great Britain and the Commonwealth
Succeeded by


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote


Sir Jonathan Sacks (born 1948) is the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth.



From Optimism to Hope (2004)

  • If we are to cherish freedom, and to guard it, we must remember what the alternative is: the bread of affliction and the bitter herbs of slavery.
    • p.42
  • Marriage, sanctified by the bond of fidelity, is the nearest life gets to a work of art.
    • p.69
  • The twenty-first century is, and will remain, the Age of Insecurity.
    • p.71

The Authorised Daily Prayer Book (4th ed 2006)

  • The first of the "request" prayers in the daily Amidah is a fractal. It replicates in miniature the structure of the Amidah as a whole.
    • p.XVII
  • The meaning of the word "true" here is similar to the word Amen said after a blessing. It is an act of affirmation and ratification, reminding us that the Shema is less a prayer than a declaration of faith.
    • pp.386-7

External links

Wikipedia has an article about:


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address