Feb 8, 2018
Twelve Hundred Hear Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks on “The Dignity of Our Differences”
On January 18, twelve hundred people from all across Jewish South Palm Beach County were honored and blessed to hear from the renowned Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, one of the Jewish world’s most essential voices of our time. It came as no surprise that the event “sold out” within days.
An international religious leader, philosopher, award-winning author and critical moral voice, Rabbi Lord Sacks is a highly sought speaker and contributor to media around the world. Born in London, he served as Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth of Nations from 1991 to 2013. He has held professorships at prestigious academic institutions including Yeshiva University, and currently serves as the Ingeborg and Ira Rennert Global Distinguished Professor at New York University. Among his numerous awards, Rabbi Lord Sacks received the highly prestigious 2016 Templeton Prize in recognition of his “exceptional contributions to affirming life’s spiritual dimension,” and the 2017 Irving Kristol Award from the American Enterprise Institute.
His topic for the evening, “Dignity of our Differences,” resonates deeply throughout the Jewish South Palm Beach County community. As the doors of Boca Raton Synagogue opened for the evening program, warm greetings and displays of real friendship among the array of diverse rabbis and community members were a clear reflection of their commitment to know and understand each other.
Representing the sponsoring organizations, Yocheved Goldberg, Rebbetzin at Boca Raton Synagogue, and Anne Jacobson, Chair of the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County Board, welcomed the enthusiastic crowd. “It is so exciting to look out and see such a cross section of our diverse Jewish community, where we come together in collaborations and friendships across what are too often boundaries of Jewish life,” said Goldberg.
“We succeed in coming together as Jews to care for each other because we know that together we are far better able to fulfill our critical responsibilities as a Jewish community: to help ensure the well-being and security of our people from down the street to Israel and across the globe,” added Jacobson.
Following a video illustrating these points, Matthew C. Levin, Federation President & CEO, also lauded the community, “where all of our rabbis come together regularly to share their concerns as issues arise, and to collaborate in strengthening Jewish life. Time and again on behalf of our people, we have united to celebrate, to rally, to advocate, to educate and to mount powerful responses to crises and natural disasters. As Rabbi Lord Sacks remarked after visiting a few years ago, our 100-acre Federation campus, the largest of its kind in the country, is a model of Jewish diversity.”
Rabbi Efrem Goldberg, Senior Rabbi of Boca Raton Synagogue introduced Rabbi Lord Sacks as, “one of my heroes…a unifying scholar who, more than anyone in recent memory, has emerged as a compelling and inspirational voice sharing Judaism’s timeless wisdom for Jews of all denominations and backgrounds.”
Rabbi Lord Sacks came to the podium before a standing ovation. With a deep knowledge of history, text and world affairs, and with wisdom and humor, he reminded the rapt audience how, in ages past and into contemporary times, divisions have exposed the Jewish people to dire consequences - and how, with one history and destiny, “diversity gives us great strength and is one of the reasons for our survival and success over the generations.”
“No small people are more diverse, ethnically, culturally, attitudinally and religiously than the Jewish people,” he said. “Yet all Jews are responsible for each other, Kol Yisroel Arevim Zeh Bah Zeh. Jewish unity never assumes that we will achieve the impossible of all being in agreement, so we must agree to disagree.”
Rabbi Lord Sacks cautioned that, “We can have differences, but they must be debated with dignity. We don’t have to be the same to sit at the same table but…. When we are divided, our enemies unite. Especially now with Anti-Semitism on the rise within living memory of the Holocaust, we must be united in Israel, in the Diaspora and between Israel and the Diaspora.”
He also reminded the crowd of the strength of the Jewish people through the ages, “We’ve been assaulted by some of the most powerful civilizations the world has ever known. Every one of those empires or superpowers has been consigned to history and museums while our people still sing ‘Am Yisrael Chai’.”
The crowd further heard Rabbi Lord Sacks laud Jewish South Palm Beach County as an important model in building Jewish unity to ensure that differences are not divisions. “Your community is one of both great diversity and great strength. It is a shining example to the Jewish world of how a community can respect one another and work together for the common good. The world has to become like this community.”
He continued, “I salute you for all you do including the help you provided together after last year’s hurricanes and so many other activities including your community-wide Purim Carnival coming up! When we are divided, we leave openings for Haman to enter.” Rabbi Lord Sacks appeared free of charge at Boca Raton Synagogue in partnership with the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County and its Deborah and Larry D. Silver Center for Jewish Engagement.