Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks dedicated his entire life to sharing the beauty and joy of Judaism and God. On several occasions, Rabbi Sacks shared his insights and wisdom on Jewish life and the teen experience. Young Jews–teenagers–always had a special place in Rabbi Sacks’ thoughts and ideas. Teens represent the best of our ideals and vision for the Jewish future.
We are pleased to share reflections from some of our staff as well as some of Rabbi Sacks’ addresses and messages to our NCSY community.
His legacy and memory live on in in our collective work inspiring the Jewish future.
The passing of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, zt”l, is a terrible loss to the Jewish people and to the entire world. Rabbi Sacks was at once both a leader of leaders and a leader of people, who made the world brighter through his speaking, writing, and bridge-building. He elevated every audience, of every background, like no one else.
Rabbi Sacks spent time with NCSY staff on multiple occasions, and he left an extraordinary impression each time. It is exceedingly rare to be able to interact with a scholar of such caliber, who is at once a world-class philosopher and thinker, and yet just as comfortable in person-to-person communication with individual people as he was as an orator behind the podium. Rabbi Sacks struck the perfect balance.
I actually met Rabbi Sacks for the first time at the International Convention of the pluralistic Jewish youth movement BBYO, at which he took the stage to the cheers of thousands of teens roaring as if at a rock concert. He connected with and uplifted that audience, as he did everyone he addressed. He believed in the incredible capacity that each educator, in NCSY and beyond, has to change the world, and he shared messages of empowerment at every opportunity.
In her eulogy for her father, Rabbi Sacks’ youngest daughter Gila shared a remarkable observation that perfectly captured part of what made her father so special. She noted that there was simply no problem that Rabbi Sacks considered too big for people to try and solve. No matter how great the challenge facing the world or the Jewish community – anti-Semitism, terrorism, assimilation, Jewish illiteracy, political polarization, moral decline – Rabbi Sacks had practical, relatable approaches as to how to solve them. In many cases, he wrote a book to clearly and thoroughly articulate the solution. Consequently, he made a meaningful difference in so many of those areas.
The world lost a once-in-a-generation gem with Rabbi Sacks’ passing. His legacy lives on through the multitudes who were impacted by his leadership. May Rabbi Sacks’ dear wife Elaine and his family be consoled in their time of sorrow by the recognition of his indelible and enduring impact on the lives of countless people and on the world at large.
With all the fame, accolades and prestigious awards he received, Rabbi Sacks remained humble. After a year in the States, I decided to invite Rabbi Sacks to deliver the keynote address at the NCSY staff conference in 2015. For me, there was one stand out line in his speech – “I write books, YOU change lives.” Although he knew the power of his books, he also understood that you need educators on the ground to nurture real change.
Regional Director of Outreach, New York NCSY