Lord Sacks accused of lacking courage in fight against hate

By Anna Sheinman, July 18, 2013
Attack: Rabbi Shmuely Boteach

Attack: Rabbi Shmuely Boteach

Prominent American rabbi Shmuley Boteach has launched a scathing attack on the outgoing Chief Rabbi, saying Lord Sacks’s lack of “moral courage” and failure to “defend his community against growing assault” will “taint his legacy”.

Writing in the Jerusalem Post, Rabbi Boteach said Lord Sacks had “personally prospered in his tenure as rabbi while his community and constituency regressed in their national standing”.

He cited examples of anti-Israel action, including an attempt by Oxford University to ban Israeli academics and the movement to label goods from Israeli settlements. “Lord Sacks was only nominally involved with many of these cases, refraining, for reasons best known to him, from defending Israel against vicious attack,” he wrote.

The article mixed praise for Lord Sacks as a writer and scholar with criticism of his “unwillingness to combat the assault on the Jewish state”. Rabbi Boteach wrote: “As an ambassador of Judaism, Sacks has had few equals. But under his watch antisemitism in England has reached frightening heights.”

Rabbi Boteach, who worked as a Chabad emissary to Oxford from 1988 to 1999, acknowledged that Lord Sacks may not have been entirely responsible.

“Part of this may stem from problems with the office itself. A chief rabbi is a member of the establishment and establishment figures tend not to make waves.”

He continued: “That Sacks did not take the BBC to task and say — definitively — that the portrayal of Israel in the British media is for the most part foul, inaccurate and deeply biased will forever remain one of the great omissions of his tenure. That he did not speak out at his alma mater, Cambridge, and other leading British Universities, of Israel’s deep humanity, commitment to human rights, and condemn its neighbours who have constantly sought its destruction, will taint his legacy.”

The Chief Rabbi’s Office declined to comment, but in a letter to the Jerusalem Post, Commmunity Security Trust chairman Gerald Ronson condemned Rabbi Boteach’s criticisms as “overly harsh and mistaken”.

Last updated: 4:45pm, July 18 2013