First cohort of Rabbi Sacks Scholars return from Jerusalem

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First cohort of Rabbi Sacks Scholars return from Jerusalem

Participants on four-day retreat hailed from the US, Israel, Australia, Canada, the UK and South Africa

Opening programme. Pic credit: Yonit Schiller
Opening programme. Pic credit: Yonit Schiller

A group of 26 Jewish educators and communal professionals who shared personal connections with Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks zt”l convened in Jerusalem last week for a high-level immersive learning experience led by The Rabbi Sacks Legacy.

The inaugural cohort of “Sacks Scholars” engaged in deep exploration of Rabbi Sacks’ teachings, preparing to promulgate his timeless wisdom through innovative programming upon their return to their communities.

Sacks Scholars with Lady Sacks.

The four-day retreat served as the launching point for a year-long initiative to cultivate a network of Rabbi Sacks-inspired scholars. Following the retreat, participants will partake in ten monthly online seminars led by global leaders in Jewish education, academia, and politics.

These seminars will be guided by Rabbi Sacks’ philosophy that “leadership at its highest transforms those who exercise and those who are influenced by it.”

Lady Elaine Sacks said: “My family and I are so appreciative of these wonderful educators from around the world who are committed to transmitting the Torah of my dear husband. They will be able to share his teachings with even more people, particularly with the next generation, adding to his legacy and impact.”

The Rabbi Sacks Legacy North American Executive Director Rabbi Jeremy Bruce said: “Rabbi Sacks called for a Judaism engaged with the world, a Judaism that addresses contemporary issues of global importance. During the Jerusalem retreat and throughout the yearlong program, the Sacks Scholars will create new ways to respond to this vital challenge.”

Pic Credit: Yonit Schiller

During the introductory conference in Jerusalem, the scholars immersed themselves in discussions on the Torah and philosophical teachings of Rabbi Sacks, while exploring his unique approach to leadership that can be imparted to communities.

The sessions included moderated panel discussions, lectures, and roundtable conversations held at landmark locations across the city, such as the Lord Sacks Forest, the Italian Synagogue, the Museum of Tolerance, and HaMiffal arts center.

Ishay Ribo and Sivan Rahav Meir_credit-Yonit Schiller

The opening session, titled “The Man Behind the Yellow Tie,” took place at Confederation House and featured a panel discussion led by individuals closest to Rabbi Sacks, including his brother Alan Sacks, his close friend Rabbi Lionel Rosenfeld, and Syma Weinberg, who served as the director of the Office of the Chief Rabbi for 13 years.

Over the course of the retreat, the scholars engaged in more than 20 intellectually stimulating sessions, ranging from practical applications such as “Becoming a Sacks Scholar,” to more abstract topics such as “Judaism, Humanity and the Cosmos: Moral Philosophical and Technical Challenges,” led by former Israeli Knesset members Michal Cotler-Wunsh and Tehila Friedman, among others.

Lord Sacks Forest_credit-Ingrid Muller

Participants also engaged in discussion on creating a common Jewish language to unite Jews from different backgrounds and perspectives during a roundtable with the renowned Judaic philosopher Dr. Micah Goodman.

Other experiential highlights included a private conversation and concert, “The Spirituality of Song,” led by Ishay Ribo and Sivan Rahav Meir in the ancient City of David, and an in-depth exploration of the Judicial Reform controversy by political analyst Haviv Rettig Gur at the National Library of Israel.

New National Library of Israel_credit-Ingrid Muller

Participants hailed from the US, Israel, Australia, Canada, the UK and South Africa including:

  • Rabbi Joseph Beyda of Yeshivah of Flatbush Joel Braverman High School in Brooklyn, New York
  • Dr. Mijal Bitton of the Downtown Minyan in New York City
  • Rabbi Dr. Benjamin Elton of The Great Synagogue in Sydney, Australia
  • Rabbi Daniel Epstein of the Western Marble Arch Synagogue in London
  • Ilana Epstein of the Jewish Futures Group in London
  • Dr. Miriam Feldmann Kaye of Bar-Ilan University
  • Rachel Fink of the Spanish & Portuguese Sephardi Community in London
  • Nicky Goldman of the Jewish Volunteering Network in London
  • Rabbi Dr. Seth Grauer of the Bnei Akiva Schools of Toronto
  • Joanne Greenaway of the London School of Jewish Studies
  • Abi Keene of the JFS School in London
  • Rabbi Barry Kleinberg of the London School of Jewish Studies
  • Rabbi Michael Laitner of the United Synagogue (UK) and of The Rabbi Sacks Legacy in London
  • Simon Lawrence of the Carmel School in Perth, Australia
  • Rabbi Dr. Samuel Lebens at the University of Haifa, Israel
  • Rabbi Dr. Dov Lerner of the Young Israel of Jamaica Estates of Queens and Yeshiva University’s Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought in New York
  • Jonathan Levy of Mitpze Netofa in Israel and formerly of the Chigwell and Hainault Synagogue in London
  • Michael Rainsbury of the London School of Jewish Studies
  • Sarah Hass Robinson of Lincoln Square Synagogue and Yeshiva University Wurzweiler School of Social Work in New York City
  • Rabbi Eddie Shostak of the Hebrew Academy in Montreal, Canada
  • Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Sinensky of the Main Line Classical Academy in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and of the Lamm Heritage Archives in New York and of The Lehrhaus
  • Rabbi Gideon Sylvester of the United Synagogue (UK) in Israel
  • Rabbi Aviad Tabory of Yeshivat Eretz HaTzvi in Jerusalem, Israel
  • Rabbi Sam Taylor of Shaarei Shomayim in Toronto, Canada
  • Dr. Tanya White of Matan Women’s Institute for Torah Studies in Jerusalem, Israel
  • Rabbi Ramon Widmonte of The Academy of Jewish Thought and Learning in Johannesburg, South Africa

The Rabbi Sacks Legacy Chief Executive Joanna Benarroch said: “Rabbi Sacks’ thoughts and leadership far transcend his immediate community and had a global impact. This week, we brought together his students who are leaders in their communities for an intensive conference to discuss how to continue to share his wisdom with people around the world.

“By relaying tools to spread Rabbi Sacks’ teachings, the scholars are both continuing to perpetuate his legacy as well as emulating what Rabbi Sacks saw as each person’s strongest obligation – not just leading but empowering others to lead.”

Rabbi Sacks passed away on November 7, 2020.

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