The rabbi of Dublin’s Jewish community has paid tribute to the late Lord Jonathan Sacks who died at the weekend.
Rabbi Sacks (72) died after a short illness and was one of the most-respected voices of faith in contemporary Britain and was widely known across the English-speaking world for his writing on multiculturalism and inter-religious dialogue.
Dublin-based Rabbi Zalman Lent told The Irish Catholic that during his time as Chief Rabbi in Britain, Lord Sacks prioritised education amongst the Jewish community.
Rabbi Lent said that he believed that one of Lord Sacks’ great contributions was “to understand the dignity of difference”.
“He stressed so much that the test of faith is whether I can make space for difference: can I recognise God’s image in someone who is not in my image,” Rabbi Lent said.
He served as Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth from 1991-2013 and was appointed to the House of Lords in 2009.
Rabbi Lent said he believed that Lord Sacks’ impact spread far and wide outside the Jewish community and the wider faith community “because of his great mix of so much intellect with compassion and humility. It’s something you really only find in the greatest of the great,” he said.
He said that Rabbi Sacks will be remembered as a man “who did not hide from challenges because he was firm in his own convictions and as such was a voice of stability for others and helped engender in them a feeling of security,” Rabbi Lent said.
Recalling an episode of when Lord Sacks appeared on the BBC Radio Four programme Desert Island Discs, Rabbi Lent recalled that one of the musical choices was a version of Psalm 63. In the text, the psalmist sings of his desire for God saying “my soul thirsts for you”.
“His [Rabbi Sacks’] soul thirsted for God,” Rabbi Lent said. “He had a genuine solid faith and a thirst for God that he blended with a love of humanity, a love of family, a love of community and a love of prayer”.
Rabbi Lent said that Lord Sacks will also be remembered as a man of great humour. “He combined it all with a wonderful self-deprecating sense of humour. He was very down to earth, and always ready to listen to people – to be absorbed in listening,” Rabbi Lent said.
Meanwhile. Britain’s most-senior Churchman Cardinal Vincent Nichols has paid tribute to a man he describes as a friend and “an eloquent proponent of some of the greatest truths of humanity”.
Cardinal Nichols said: “I mourn the death of Jonathan Sacks. I express my sorrow to the worldwide Jewish community on the loss of this great figure. I assure them of my prayers and condolences.
“Chief Rabbi Sacks was a most eloquent proponent of some of the greatest truths of humanity, so often forgotten. I recall with clarity some of his forceful and persuasive presentations of the truths expressed in Judaism and indeed in the Christian faith, truths which help us to make sense of our lives, our communities and our destinies,” the cardinal said.
Dr Nichols quoted words of Rabbi Sacks during a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI in London in 2010: “In the face of a deeply individualistic culture we offer community. Against consumerism, we talk about the things that have value but not a price. Against cynicism, we dare to admire and respect. In the face of fragmenting families, we believe in consecrating relationships. We believe in marriage as a commitment, parenthood as a responsibility, and the poetry of everyday life; when it is etched, in homes and schools with the charisma of holiness and grace.”