Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks z’’l

Jonathan Sacks had been Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth from 1991 to 2013. Throughout this period and after, he conducted a continuous programme of visiting communities large and small throughout the UK as well as making significant and long remembered visits to Australia, Canada, South Africa, Hong Kong and other countries of the Commonwealth and, of course, regularly speaking and teaching in the USA and Israel. There can hardly be a thoughtful Jew in the world, of any denomination or none who has not heard one of his talks, followed one of his podcasts, read one of his posts or studied one of his books. Further, his masterful commentaries on the siddur (prayerbook), weekly Torah readings (in Covenant and Conversation) and festival prayers breathed new life into well-worn prayers and texts, casting a scintillating fresh insight into the central texts and teachings of the Jews.

But Sacks was a Professor as well as a rabbi. He communicated far beyond the Jewish world. His books were considered valuable and uplifting by the wider public and leading world figures. Indeed, Prince Charles, in a lovely turn on Isaiah’s expression of the mission of the Jews, called Sacks a ’light unto this nation’ in his comments at Lord Sacks’s retirement from his role as Chief Rabbi.

It is no exaggeration to say that few rabbis have ever done more to help the ordinary Jew make sense of the challenging realities of the current world through the rich resource of Jewish teaching. In that, his closest parallel is Maimonides. It is no coincidence that these two both shared a fascination for how philosophy can clarify and sharpen one’s view. Both knew that Jewish teaching had much to say of value in the world’s conversations and both were unflinchingly confident in their mission – and their ability – to share all they could both with their fellow rabbis, but perhaps more importantly, with the ordinary Jew.

We mourn his loss and urge all readers of this to not let his going pass without note. If you wish to memorialise Rabbi Sacks and mark his passing in a fitting way, read something he’s written. If you do, I’m fairly sure you will want to read more – and that will be his legacy, and the one he would have wanted.

Clive Lawton
8th November 2020

Commonwealth Day 2019

Commonwealth Day, held on the second Monday in March each year, is an opportunity for individuals, communities and organisations to promote the Commonwealth’s shared values of peace, democracy and equality, and to celebrate the association’s rich diversity. This year Commonwealth Day 2019 also marks the 70th anniversary of the formation of the Commonwealth, with old ties and new links enabling cooperation towards social, political and economic development, which is both inclusive and sustainable. The afternoon service takes place in the presence of Her Majesty The Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, and other members of the Royal Family, senior politicians, High Commissioners, Commonwealth dignitaries and over 1,000 young people, with approximately 2,000 people attending in total. Please join the celebrations by sharing your messages, photos and videos with the hashtag #CommonwealthDay andConnectedCommonwealth.

Highest Ranking Jew in Indian Army Lt. Gen. Jacob-Farj-Rafael dies aged 92

One of the most prominent members of India’s Jewish community died Wednesday 13 January 2016 after a short illness. Lt. Gen. Jacob-Farj-Rafael “JFR” Jacob had a successful career in India’s military, and his body was held in state at Brar Square in Delhi Cantonment before a funeral took place at Judah Hyam Synagogue in Delhi. A reception to honour Jacob was attended by all 3 chiefs of the Indian Army,the Minister of Defence, the former President of India, ambassadors and 13 regiments.  

Israeli Ambassador Daniel Carmon said that Jacob was a staunch supporter of India-Israel relations and “shall forever be remembered as a human bridge between our peoples.”

Jacob was inspired by the plight of Jews in Europe to join what was then the British Indian army in 1942. His family had settled in India from Iraq in the 18th Century. 

Jamaica community works to restore cemeteries

The Jewish community of Jamaica started a programme of cemetery restoration and cataloguing with the cleaning up of the Hunt’s Bay Cemetery 9 years ago. This, the oldest Jewish cemetery in Jamaica which served the Jews who first settled in Port Royal after the capture of the island by the English in 1655-58. The earliest graves date from 1672.

Up until now, the community has almost completed the revised cataloguing of all the Jewish graves in the remaining 12 Jewish cemeteries island-wide. This has been undertaken with volunteers, headed by Rachel Frankel, through the Caribbean Volunteers Expedition program. The community has 15 volunteers working as of today on two cemeteries, Orange Street and Elletson Road.

The White Church Street Cemetery will be catalogued next year. This will be undertaken on completion of its restoration. Updates will follow.

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