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New British Chief Rabbi Speaks of Need for Decade of Renewal

Dr. Jonathan Sacks, installed Sunday as the sixth chief rabbi of Britain, urged British Jewry to join him in creating a decade of Jewish renewal.

Sacks, 43, who now heads the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, told a packed St. John’s Wood Synagogue that the process of renewal would revitalize British Jewry’s great powers of creativity.

He said it should be based on five central values: love of every Jew, love of learning, love of God, a profound contribution to British society and an unequivocal attachment to Israel.

Sacks asked the community to concentrate on the “historical moment” in which it is living and said failure of imagination must not stand in the way of achieving fulfillment of all hopes.

The new chief rabbi began his address by praising the work of his predecessor, Lord Immanuel Jakobovits, who had “raised the standing of the Chief Rabbinate in both Jewish and non-Jewish eyes.”

The London-born, Cambridge-educated rabbi placed Jewish education, leadership and spirituality at the center of the struggle against indifference to a Jewish future.

“After millennial longings, we dare not, on the brink of arrival into a new era, let strength of will desert us,” he told his audience.

Urging the community to join him in translating his vision into a practical program, he said he wants to be “a catalyst for creativity, to encourage leadership in others, and to let in the fresh air of initiative and imagination.”

Britain’s Chief Rabbinate has existed in one form or another for nearly three centuries. The post has been associated with the United Synagogue, which was officially created July 14, 1870. The chief rabbi’s role has mainly been that of leader of the Ashkenazic congregations.

Sacks’ predecessors were Rabbis Nathan Marcus Adler; his son, Hermann Adler; Joseph Hertz; Sir Israel Brodie; and Jakobovits.

Jakobovits, a native of Germany, declined the first offer to be chief rabbi, which was then given to Jacob Herzog, an Israeli diplomat. When Herzog’s health failed him, he withdrew his candidacy and Jakobovits, who was serving at New York’s Fifth Avenue Synagogue, accepted the position in 1967.

In Jerusalem, President Chaim Herzog, brother of Jacob Herzog, sent Sacks a congratulatory message Monday on behalf of the people of Israel.

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