Chief Rabbi — we are proud of you
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In my communal roles, both at the Jewish Leadership Council and UJIA, one of the real perks has been the opportunity to engage with the Chief Rabbi.
I have always found our relationship to be one of sincerity and warmth.
There will be no shortage of tribute and analysis over this period, however the bottom line is that as a Jewish leader, as a rabbinic voice and as a national figure, Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks has inspired our community as well as the broader nation, and been a steadfast defender and spokesman for Israel and Jewish values.
When historians of UK Jewry look back over the his tenure, they will tell a story of the transformation of a Jewish community.
A story of the explosive growth of Jewish day schools — a reversal of the scenario in which most Jewish children received their Jewish education at (often stale and uninspiring) part-time chedarim into a new landscape, whereby most Jewish children are pupils at Jewish schools.
The historians will tell the story of synagogues which boast dynamic communal leaders as rabbis, and seamlessly integrate multiple minyanim and services under one roof.
They will tell the story of a community which has made huge strides on involving women in communal life.
The Chief Rabbi was the first to identify and speak out against what became known as “the new antisemitism” before UK Parliamentarians.
Generations of our student leaders cite his work as seminal in bolstering their ability to combat anti-Israel sentiment on campus.
The Chief Rabbi has consistently raised issues of BBC coverage of Israel, including on occasions when he was invited to address the senior leadership of the corporation.
During his time in office, the Chief Rabbi has led national street parades and rallies of tens of thousands of people through central London to celebrate Israel. He has been bold and courageous in using the Office of the Chief Rabbi to deepen UK-Israel bilateral relationships to the benefits of the community and the country.
It was this Chief Rabbi who, when the world accused Israel of committing a “massacre” in Jenin, proactively took the lead by touring national broadcast media outlets and saying that Israel should not be condemned before the facts became public. He was proven correct.
Over 10 years on, people still quote from his 2002 Trafalgar Square “Israel I am Proud of You” speech — a piece of oratory that gained national coverage and lifted an entire community from the gloomy depths of the second intifada.
It is also important to recognise the graceful and dignified leadership of Lady Sacks. In an understated manner Elaine has not just supported her husband but also delivered leadership in her own right, particularly in the fields of pastoral care and developing the role of women in the community.
The Chief Rabbi is one of the few world-class Jewish leaders that British Jewry has produced. I have no doubt it is the vision, leadership and action — and not just his outstanding eloquence — that will ensure Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks continues to make a meaningful impact upon the Jewish world and wider society for many years to come.
Mick Davis is chairman of the Jewish Leadership Council