Inaugural Sacks Scholars Programme Launched

July 2, 2023
Sacks Scholars cohort SWU Israel Retreat 2023

A group of 26 Jewish educators and communal professionals who shared personal connections with Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks zt”l convened in Jerusalem last week for a high-level immersive learning experience led by The Rabbi Sacks Legacy.

The inaugural cohort of “Sacks Scholars” engaged in deep exploration of Rabbi Sacks’ teachings in the city that was so beloved to him, Jerusalem, preparing to promulgate his timeless wisdom through innovative programming upon their return to their communities.

The four-day retreat served as the launching point for a year-long initiative to cultivate a network of Rabbi Sacks-inspired scholars. Following the retreat, participants will partake in ten monthly online seminars led by global leaders in Jewish education, academia, and politics. These seminars will be guided by Rabbi Sacks’ philosophy that “leadership at its highest transforms those who exercise and those who are influenced by it.”

Programme Director Rabbi Jeremy Bruce said, “Rabbi Sacks called for a Judaism engaged with the world, a Judaism that addresses contemporary issues of global importance. During the Jerusalem retreat and throughout the programme, the Sacks Scholars will create new ways to respond to this vital challenge.” 

During the introductory conference, the scholars immersed themselves in discussions on the Torah and philosophical teachings of Rabbi Sacks, while exploring his unique approach to leadership that can be imparted to communities. The sessions included moderated panel discussions, lectures, and roundtable conversations held at landmark locations across the city, such as the Lord Sacks Forest, the Italian Synagogue, the Museum of Tolerance, and the StandWithUs Education Center.

The opening session, titled “The Man Behind the Yellow Tie,” took place at Confederation House and featured a panel discussion led by individuals closest to Rabbi Sacks, including his brother Alan Sacks, his close friend Rabbi Lionel Rosenfeld, and Syma Weinberg, who served as the director of the Office of the Chief Rabbi for 13 years.

Over the course of the retreat, the scholars engaged in more than 20 intellectually stimulating sessions, ranging from practical applications such as “Becoming a Sacks Scholar,” to more abstract topics such as “Judaism, Humanity and the Cosmos: Moral Philosophical and Technical Challenges,” led by former Israeli Knesset members Michal Cotler-Wunsh and Tehila Friedman, among others.

Participants also engaged in discussion on creating a common Jewish language to unite Jews from different backgrounds and perspectives during a roundtable with the renowned Judaic philosopher Dr. Micah Goodman. Other experiential highlights included a private conversation and concert, “The Spirituality of Song,” led by Ishay Ribo and Sivan Rahav Meir in the ancient City of David, and an in-depth exploration of the Judicial Reform controversy by political analyst Haviv Rettig Gur. Another conversation explored ways of increasing their impact through the adaptive leadership framework of Harvard Professor Ronald Heifetz, widely regarded as one of the world’s foremost authorities on leadership application.

Joanna Benarroch, Chief Executive of The Rabbi Sacks Legacy, added, “Rabbi Sacks’ thoughts and leadership far transcend his immediate community and had a global impact. We brought together his students who are leaders in their communities for an intensive conference to discuss how to continue to share his wisdom with people around the world. By relaying tools to spread Rabbi Sacks’ teachings, the scholars are both continuing to perpetuate his legacy as well as emulating what Rabbi Sacks saw as each person’s strongest obligation – not just leading but empowering others to lead.” 

Lady Elaine Sacks, who joined the retreat in Jerusalem, said, “My family and I are so appreciative of these wonderful educators from around the world who are committed to transmitting the Torah of my dear husband. They will be able to share his teachings with even more people, particularly with the next generation, adding to his legacy and impact.”

JNF Forest Sacks Scholars Israel Retreat session 2023
Sacks Scholars Israel Retreat session 2023 Ishai Ribo Sivan Rahav Meir
Rabbis Sam Taylor Daniel Epstein Sacks Scholars Israel Retreat session 2023
Jonny Lipczer leads Sacks Scholars Israel Retreat session 2023

Photos: Yonit Schiller, Ingrid Muller and StandWithUs