Edited by: Fern Sidman
Former Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks of the United Kingdom has been diagnosed with cancer and is undergoing treatment, his office has said, according to a report in the London-based Jewish Chronicle.
The Chronicle reported that a statement said that he “remains positive and upbeat and will now spend a period of time focused on the treatment he is receiving from his excellent medical team. He is looking forward to returning to his work as soon as possible.”
Lord Sacks’ successor as Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, responded to the news by expressing his “heartfelt prayers” to him and his family.
“May Hashem bless you with a Refuah Sheleima [a full recovery] – a swift and complete return to good health.”
The Jewish Chronicle reported that figures from across the British community sent messages wishing the rabbi well, including journalist Stephen Bush and human rights barrister Adam Wagner.
Former NY State Assemblyman and founder of Americans Against Antisemitism Dov Hikind wrote that he was “Praying for a speedy and complete recovery”.
JTA reported that Sacks, 72, has been treated for cancer twice before, in his 30s and again in his 50s, a fact that wasn’t widely known until it was disclosed in a 2012 book.
He served as the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth from 1991 to 2013. As the spiritual head of the United Synagogue, the largest synagogue body in the UK, he was the Chief Rabbi of those Orthodox synagogues. Rabbi Sacks formally carried the title of Av Beit Din (head) of the London Beth Din. He is now known as the Emeritus Chief Rabbi.
Since stepping down as Chief Rabbi, in addition to his international travelling and speaking engagements and prolific writing, Sacks has served as the Ingeborg and Ira Rennert Global Distinguished Professor of Judaic Thought at New York University and as the Kressel and Ephrat Family University Professor of Jewish Thought at Yeshiva University. He has also been appointed as Professor of Law, Ethics and the Bible at King’s College London. He won the Templeton Prize (awarded for work affirming life’s spiritual dimension) in 2016. He is also a Senior Fellow to the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights.
A visiting professor at several universities in Britain, the United States and Israel, Sacks holds 16 honorary degrees, including a doctorate of divinity conferred on him in September 2001 by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, to mark his first ten years in office as Chief Rabbi. In recognition of his work, Sacks has won several international awards, including the Jerusalem Prize in 1995 for his contribution to diaspora Jewish life and The Ladislaus Laszt Ecumenical and Social Concern Award from Ben Gurion University in Israel in 2011.
JTA reported that Rabbi Sacks is among the most prominent expositors of Orthodox Judaism in the world, having authored dozens of books addressing contemporary spiritual and moral issues. A translation and commentary on a Jewish prayer book that he wrote has become enormously popular worldwide. His most recent book, “Morality: Restoring the Common Good in Divided Times,” came out last month.