Remembering Rabbi Jonathan Sacks (1948-2020)

One of global Jewry's most influential leaders and communicators passed away over the weekend, leaving an incalculable void

My latest:

On November 7, the U.S. presidential election was called for Joe Biden. In my neighborhood of New York City, people lined the streets in celebration. Elsewhere in the country, many had the opposite reaction. And on Twitter, President Trump refused to accept the results. In that kind of environment, it’s nearly impossible for any other story to break through, but for many Jewish people, one thing did: Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi of the United Kingdom, passed away on Saturday at the age of 72.

If you haven’t heard of him, and want to get a sense of just how beloved he was, I encourage you to read the replies and comments on the tweet announcing his passing.

There are thousands of heartfelt condolences from everyday people, artists, reporters, politicians, Jews, Christians, Muslims, and none of the above. It’s the very rare rabbi who touches so many souls, especially in this polarizing age with its distrust of organized religion.

For all the tweets, Sacks did not get the send-off he deserved. He was buried in a small socially-distanced ceremony that even Britain’s current chief rabbi was unable to attend. It was far from the massive outpouring of mourners and tributes he would have received had he passed in normal times. This piece is my small effort to fill that gap and honor him and his work.

Read the rest in Tablet here. I interviewed Sacks on multiple occasions, and personally benefited from his writing and teaching. It’s impossible to sum up his insight and output, or to critically evaluate them, in a single piece, but I hope this article will serve as a good introduction to him and his work. I even included a few book recommendations, for those trying to figure out where to start among his dozens of publications.

They’re not in my piece, but it’s also worth reading some of the comments that have been left on the videos of the eulogies at his funeral:

May his memory continue to be a blessing.


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