Prince Charles mourns UK’s Rabbi Jonathan Sacks: ‘He spanned sacred and secular’

Charles calls Sacks ‘a leader whose wisdom, scholarship and humanity were without equal’; Netanyahu cites his ‘insights on the heritage of the Jewish people and on anti-Semitism’

Former British chief rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks (United Synagogue via JTA)
Former British chief rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks (United Synagogue via JTA)

Britain’s Prince Charles on Sunday mourned the passing of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi of the United Kingdom, citing his legacy as a leader.

Sacks, whose extensive writings and frequent media appearances commanded a global following among Jews and non-Jews alike, died Saturday morning at 72. He was battling cancer, which he had announced in October.

In an official statement, Charles called Sacks “a leader whose wisdom, scholarship and humanity were without equal.”

“It was with the most profound personal sorrow that I heard of the death of Rabbi Lord Sacks,” the statement read. “With his passing, the Jewish community, our nation, and the entire world have lost a leader whose wisdom, scholarship and humanity were without equal.”

“His immense learning spanned the sacred and the secular, and his prophetic voice spoke to our greatest challenges with unfailing insight and boundless compassion. His wise counsel was sought and appreciated by those of all faiths and none, and he will be missed more than words can say,” Charles said.

The statement continued, celebrating Sacks’s contributions.

“Although Rabbi Lord Sacks’s death is a cause of the greatest possible sadness, we give thanks for the immeasurable contribution which — in the tradition of the most revered teachers of the Jewish people — he made to all our lives,” it said.

Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks escorts Prince Charles at his farewell dinner (photo credit: John Rifkin/courtesy)

“I send my deepest condolences to his family,” Charles said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also mourned Sacks’s passing, said his ideas would endure for generations.

“His insights on the heritage of the Jewish people and on anti-Semitism will live on, for our generation and future generations. May his memory be a blessing,”  he said on Twitter.

President Reuven Rivlin called Sacks “a man of words… and of creativity, a man of truth, whose generosity and compassion built bridges between people.”

He said Sacks “bravely faced difficult questions and always found the right words to illuminate the Torah and explain its paths. We will always remember his warnings against violence in the name of God, and his belief that we have the power to heal a fractured world.”

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks speaks on the power of religious texts to shape lives at The Center for Jewish History in New York, April 5, 2016. (Cathryn J. Prince/The Times of Israel)

Sacks was among the world’s leading exponents of Orthodox Judaism for a global audience. In his 22 years as chief rabbi, he emerged as the most visible Jewish leader in the United Kingdom and one of the European continent’s leading Jewish voices, offering Jewish wisdom to the masses through a regular segment he produced for the BBC. He had a close relationship with former British prime minister Tony Blair, who called Sacks “an intellectual giant” and presented him with a lifetime achievement award in 2018.

Sacks, who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2005 and awarded a Life Peerage in the British House of Lords in 2009, was an outspoken advocate of religious and social tolerance throughout his career.

JTA contributed to this report. 

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