‘What would a school created by Rabbi Lord Sacks look like?’

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‘What would a school created by Rabbi Lord Sacks look like?’

Dr Daniel Rose says the late Rabbi Lord Sacks earned many titles over the span of his life, but the one he valued above any other was 'rabbi' - meaning teacher.

Rabbi Lord Sacks
Rabbi Lord Sacks

 The Hebrew word rabbi means simply teacher. Above all else, Rabbi Sacks saw himself as an educator, and made it his life’s work to transmit Judaism’s core message, wisdom and values to current and future generations. 

“Education,” said Rabbi Sacks, “is not what we know. It is who we are.” 

It is most certainly who he was. While he became a global religious leader, impacting myriads of Jews and non-Jews around the world, I can’t help wondering what his career would have looked like if he had chosen
a different path and become a school teacher. 

What would a Jewish school under his leadership look like?

Rabbi Sacks frequently and proudly presented universal education as a core Jewish value and described the Jewish people as “a nation of educators” from the very beginning of their history. 

His school would be open and welcoming to every Jewish child in the community, celebrate their successes and create opportunities whenever possible for intergenerational Jewish learning, partnering with parents and grandparents in the educational process.  

Daniel Rose

His school would be proudly Modern Orthodox, with a strong and clearly articulated ethos. Central to this would be an openness to the “other”. Space to acknowledge and celebrate “the dignity of difference” would be a key tenet of this school, with time in the curriculum given to understanding other streams of Judaism and other faiths, and time in the calendar given for dialogue and interaction.

In this school, there would be a strong emphasis on cross-curricular integration between the Jewish and general studies departments, demonstrating that not only is there no tension between Torah and Chochma (Jewish and general wisdom), but they fully complement each other, addressing different human needs and understanding, forming what he called “the great partnership”.

Jewish history will also be an essential part of the curriculum, focusing on national memory and personal identity. Israel and Zionism will permeate every cultural and religious aspect of this school, functioning as a source of identity and inspiration as the “Land of Hope”, and the place where, he said, “Jews were summoned to create a society of justice and compassion under the sovereignty of God”.

The teachers in this school would be supremely valued as vital contributors to society. For Rabbi Sacks, teachers are the heroes of the Jewish world and should be appreciated professionally, communally and financially. There is no more powerful vehicle for education than role models, because values are caught, not taught.

The school day would be framed by tefillah (Jewish prayer). Rather than one-size-fits-all, a creative approach would be taken ensuring diverse opportunities and modes for developing a relationship with God. For Rabbi Sacks, faith is a muscle like any other, needing attention and regular exercise.

Our Rabbi Sacks school would reflect the centrality of activism and social responsibility in order “to heal the fractured world”, an idea found throughout his writings. This would not remain theoretical, just inside in the classroom and assemblies, but would be actualised off campus, taking our students into the community and wider society, ensuring students gain, in a practical and experiential way, the core value of “Jewish responsibility”.

While Rabbi Sacks is no longer here to lead us, he left us a blueprint. Now is the time for us to deliver on his vision. 

  •  Dr Daniel Rose is an Israel-based Jewish educator and educational consultant and a curriculum writer for The Rabbi Sacks Legacy Trust. Daniel’s lecture on Monday, 3 May is part of the fortnightly course run by the London School of Jewish Studies on key ideas of Rabbi Sacks, taught by his well-known and up-and-coming students from around the world. Details: www.lsjs.ac.uk

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