‘Warmest human spirit’: UK’s former chief rabbi Sacks dies

‘Warmest human spirit’: UK’s former chief rabbi Sacks dies

In this March 2, 2016, file photo, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks speaks at a press conference announcing his winning of the 2016 Templeton Prize, in London. Sacks, the former chief rabbi in the UK who reached beyond the Jewish community with his regular broadcasts on radio, has died at 72. A statement on his Twitter page said he died early Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020. (Credit: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP.)

Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi in the UK who reached beyond the Jewish community with his regular broadcasts on radio, has died at 72.

LONDON — Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi in the UK who reached beyond the Jewish community with his regular broadcasts on radio, has died at 72.

A statement on his Twitter page said he died early Saturday.

Sacks served as the chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, the figurehead of British Jews, for 22 years, stepping down in 2013.

He was succeeded by the current chief rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, who said the world had lost an “intellectual giant who had a transformative global impact.”

For many people in the UK, Sacks was best known for his regular broadcasts on the “Thought of the Day” fixture on BBC Radio 4’s Today program, the network’s flagship morning news program.

Mohit Bakaya, the controller of the radio channel, said Sacks was a man of “great intellect, humanity and warmth,” whose contributions to the “Thought of the Day” segment were “some of the most erudite.”

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, said he mourned the death of Sacks.

“I have lost a friend; the Jewish community a great leader; humanity an eloquent spokesman,” the cardinal said in a statement.

“Chief Rabbi Sacks was a most eloquent proponent of some of the greatest truths of humanity, so often forgotten,” Nichols said. “I recall with clarity some of his forceful and persuasive presentations of the truths expressed in Judaism and indeed in the Christian faith, truths which help us to make sense of our lives, our communities and our destinies.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson joined in the tributes to Sacks, saying his leadership had a “profound impact on our whole country and across the world.”

Tony Blair, who was prime minister for much of the time that Sacks was chief rabbi, described him as “a man of huge intellectual stature but with the warmest human spirit.”

Crux staff contributed to this report.

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