Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks
RABBI SIR JONATHAN SACKS has been Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth since September 1, 1991, the sixth incumbent since 1845.
Widely recognised as one of the world's leading contemporary exponents of Judaism, Britain's Prime Minster Gordon Brown, said of him (May 2003): The Chief Rabbi is not just a distinguished scholar but a distinguished spiritual leader and a globally respected ambassador for the Jewish community here in Britain. He is respected in every continent because he has done more than anyone in Britain today to focus our attention on the needs and challenges of community in the global world.
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair said of him (March 2004): Jonathan Sacks is truly a towering figure in the intellectual life of Britain today. He ranges with extraordinary ease across different fields, making a contribution that is uniquely and distinctively his own. In particular, as few other people can, he relates the insights of religion to the modern world and retells the story of faith in a compelling way, and that is a rare and remarkable achievement.
Historian Michael Burleigh has described him as the most impressive religious leader in the Kingdom (2006).
Prior to becoming Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Sacks had been Principal of Jews' College, London, the world's oldest rabbinical seminary, as well as rabbi of the Golders Green and Marble Arch synagogues in London. He gained rabbinic ordination from Jews' College as well as from London's Yeshiva Etz Chaim.
His secular academic career has also been a distinguished one. Educated at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, where he obtained first class honours in Philosophy, he pursued postgraduate studies at New College, Oxford, and King's College, London. Professor Sacks has been Visiting Professor of Philosophy at the University of Essex, Sherman Lecturer at Manchester University, Riddell Lecturer at Newcastle University, Cook Lecturer at the Universities of Oxford, Edinburgh and St. Andrews and Visiting Professor at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem. He is currently Visiting Professor of Theology at Kings College London. He holds honorary doctorates from the universities of Bar Ilan, Cambridge, Glasgow, Haifa, Middlesex, Yeshiva University New York, University of Liverpool, St. Andrews University and Leeds Metropolitan University, and is an honorary fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, and King's College London. 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.
BA (Hon.), first class Philosophy : Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge Post Graduate : New College, Oxford King's College, London Honorary Fellow : Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge King's College, London
At his installation as Chief Rabbi in 1991, Dr Sacks set out his vision of a reinvigorated Anglo-Jewry and launched it with a Decade of Jewish Renewal, followed by a series of innovative communal projects. These included Jewish Continuity (a national foundation funding programmes in Jewish education and outreach), the Association of Jewish Business Ethics, the Chief Rabbinate Awards for Excellence, the Chief Rabbinate Bursaries, and Community Development, a national programme to enhance Jewish community life. In 1995, he received the Jerusalem Prize for his contribution to diaspora Jewish life. In September 2001 the Chief Rabbi began his second decade of office with a call to Jewish Responsibility and a renewed commitment to the ethical dimension of Judaism. He was awarded a Knighthood in the Queen's Birthday Honours list in June 2005. A notably gifted communicator, the Chief Rabbi is a frequent contributor to radio, television and the national press. Each year before Rosh Hashanah he delivers a message to the nation on BBC Television. In 1990 he delivered the BBC Reith Lectures on The Persistence of Faith. He is the author of a number of books, including:
- 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)
- Faith in the Future (1998)
- The Politics of Hope (1997)
- Morals and Markets (1999)
- Celebrating Life (2000)
- Radical Then, Radical Now (2001)
- Dignity of Difference (2002)
- The Chief Rabbi's Haggadah (2003)
- From Optimism to Hope (2004)
- To Heal a Fractured World (2005)
- The Authorised Daily Prayer Book: new translation and commentary (2006)
- The Home We Build Together (2007)
Six of his books have been serialised in the national British press.The[London] Times described his Faith in the Future as "one of the most significant declarations made by a religious leader in this country for many years," and called his The Politics of Hope" a remarkable book rich and eloquent which deserves to become a key text." The Daily Telegraphwrote of The Dignity of Difference that it "stands far above other books about globalization and the so-called clash of civilizations, both for what it has to say and for the grace with which it says it." Rabbi Sacks is a regular contributor to The Times, in which he writes a monthly Credo column. He is a frequent contributor to Thought for the Day on BBC Radio 4. A Letter in the Scroll and The Dignity of Difference both won national American book awards.
Born in 1948 in London, he has been married to Elaine since 1970. They have three children, Joshua, Dina and Gila and three grandchildren.