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An error of judgement from the Emeritus Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks

The loathsome Mike Pence stands alone — except perhaps for his boss — which makes this week’s revelation of his link to our former Chief Rabbi genuinely shocking.

    US Vice President Mike Pence addresses the Knesset (Photo: Getty)
    US Vice President Mike Pence addresses the Knesset (Photo: Getty)

    Rabbis and politicians have made fascinating bedfellows for generations.

    The working relationship between Lord Jakobovits and Margaret Thatcher was legendary. Their successors, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis and Theresa May, have enjoyed a warm friendship. 

    The moral positions of those political leaders would no doubt fill many hours of Shabbat dinner discussion. 

    But the loathsome Mike Pence stands alone — except perhaps for his boss — which makes this week’s revelation of his link to our former Chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks, genuinely shocking. 

    What on earth is Jonathan Sacks, the erudite, polite, shy Englishman doing getting involved with the homophobic, extreme Christian campaigner against women’s rights who is currently serving as Vice President of the United States?

    Mr Pence, raised an Irish-Catholic in Indiana, has been ridiculed in the US for his personal traits, which include calling his wife “Mother”.

    Less amusing are his repulsive views: on banning abortion even in cases of rape and incest, on attempting to curb the rights of LGBT people, and on so many positions harmful to children — relating to guns, sex education, and healthcare.

    The list of Mr Pence’s views which are so at odds with what most right-thinking British Jews would find acceptable is almost endless. Lord Sacks, who must also surely find this man’s track-record abhorrent, should have heard the alarm bells ringing all the way across the Atlantic.

    Described as “ambitious” and “calculating”, Mr Pence is a heartbeat or impeachment away from being the most powerful person on the planet. 

    Some might see assisting the Vice President as a shrewd move, in terms of raising Lord Sacks’s profile in the United States, at least. The polarised US may be home to tens of millions who hate Mr Pence and his evangelical bible-loving supporters but American Zionists are a substantial demographic too. 

    There will be countless wealthy churches across Republican states now falling over themselves to invite Lord Sacks to speak.

    Emeritus Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks (Photo: Getty)
    Emeritus Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks (Photo: Getty)

    This Shabbat he will be with the community of Ramat Shalom in Mexico City on the latest stage of the world tour he began after leaving his London-based role in 2013.

    Nobody would begrudge Rabbi Sacks the opportunity to enjoy his retirement on global speaking tours, writing best-selling books and spending time as rabbi in residence at communities capable of healthily remunerating him. After nearly a quarter of a century as Britain’s Chief Rabbi, and six weeks shy of his 70th birthday, that is the least he deserves.

    But in agreeing to work with one of the most indefensible politicians of the modern era, Emeritus Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks — the pre-eminent theological mind of his generation — has made a terrible error of judgement.

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