Rabbi Jonathan Sacks died on November 7, 2020, after a short bout with cancer. He was 72.
Educated at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, where he obtained first class honours in Philosophy, Jonathan Sacks pursued postgraduate studies at New College, Oxford, and King’s College London, gaining his Ph.D. in 1981 and rabbinic ordination from Jews’ College and Yeshiva Etz Chaim. He was Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth from 1991 - 2013, the sixth incumbent since the role was formalized in 1845.
Sacks was a visiting professor at several universities in Britain, the United States, and Israel. He helds 14 honorary degrees, including a Doctor of Divinity conferred to mark his first ten years in office by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
At the time of his installation as Chief Rabbi, Sacks launched a "Decade of Jewish Renewal." This led to a series of innovative communal projects including Jewish Continuity, a national foundation for Jewish educational programs and outreach; the Association of Jewish Business Ethics; the Chief Rabbinate Awards for Excellence; the Chief Rabbinate Bursaries; and Community Development, a national scheme to enhance Jewish community life in partnership with the United Synagogue. He began his second decade of office with a call to "Jewish Responsibility" and a renewed commitment to the ethical dimension of Judaism.
Sacks received a number of prizes, including the Jerusalem Prize 1995 for his contribution to diaspora Jewish life and The Ladislaus Laszt Ecumenical and Social Concern Award from Ben Gurion University in Israel in 2011. He was knighted by Her Majesty The Queen in 2005 and made a Life Peer, taking his seat in the House of Lords on 27th October 2009.
Sacks was a frequent contributor to radio, television and the national press. He was a sought-after voice on issues of war and peace, religious fundamentalism, ethics, and the relationship between science and religion, among other topics. He regularly delivered BBC Radio 4’s "Thought for the Day," wrote a monthly Credo column for The Times, and broadcast an annual Rosh Hashanah message on the BBC.
- Forward looking Jewish teaching that is sensitive to both the past and the present
- A combination of academic intellectual rigor paired with respect for practical spirituality
- An emphasis on reconciliation, unity, and healing for the whole world