Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks z"l
Founding Member of the Selection Committee
Emeritus Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth
Jonathan Sacks was the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth from September 1991until September 2013, the sixth incumbent since the role was formalized in 1845. Prior to taking up this post, Rabbi Sacks was Principal of Jews’ College, as well as rabbi of the Golders Green and Marble Arch synagogues.
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.
Rabbi Lord Sacks was a visiting professor at several universities in Britain, the United States and Israel. He held 14 honorary degrees, including a Doctor of Divinity conferred by the Archbishop of Canterbury to mark his first ten years in office. At the time of his installation, the Chief Rabbi Emeritus launched a ‘Decade of Jewish Renewal’. This led to a series of innovative communal projects including Jewish Continuity, a national foundation for Jewish educational programmes 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. The Chief Rabbi Emeritus began his second decade of office with a call to ‘Jewish Responsibility' and a renewed commitment to the ethical dimension of Judaism.
The Chief Rabbi Emeritus has 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, where he sat on the cross benches as Baron Sacks of Aldgate in the City of London.
Rabbi Lord Sacks was a frequent contributor to radio, television and the national press. 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. He wrote over 24 books. A number of his books won literary awards, including the Grawemeyer Prize for Religion in 2004 for The Dignity of Difference, and a National Jewish Book Award in 2000 for A Letter in the Scroll. Covenant & Conversation Volume 1 also won a National Jewish Book Award in 2009.
Born in 1948 in London, Rabbi Sacks passed away on November 7, 2020. He and his wife Elaine were married for 50 years; they have three children and six grandchildren.