By Ben Harris and Cnaan Liphshiz and Gabe Friedman
(JTA) – Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi of the United Kingdom whose extensive writings and frequent media appearances commanded a global following among Jews and non-Jews alike, has died.
Sacks died Saturday morning, Nov. 7, at age 72, his Twitter account announced. He was in the midst of a third bout of cancer, which he had announced in October.
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 was also an immensely prolific author, addressing pressing social and political issues in a succession of well received books. His popular commentary on the prayer book, published by Koren, helped to dethrone the more traditionalist Artscroll Siddur as the preeminent prayer book in American Modern Orthodox synagogues.
Sacks was normally averse to mixing religion and politics, something he discussed, along with his latest book, Morality: Restoring the Common Good in Divided Times, and an array of other hot-button topics with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in August.
“When anger erupts in a body politic, there is quite often a justified cause. But then the political domain has got to take that anger and deal with it very fast,” he told JTA’s opinion editor.
Main Photo: Jonathan Sacks seen as the chief rabbi of the United Kingdom, circa 2000. (Credit: John Downing/Getty Images)