Tribute to Chief Rabbi Sacks draws record crowds
Press release – 18 February 2012
Over a thousand people attended launch events for Radical Responsibility: Celebrating the Thought of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks. On Monday 4 February 2013 the book was launched in front of a crowd of over 300 people at the Hampstead Synagogue in London, and on Tuesday 12 February, 800 people attended a launch event at the Jerusalem International Book Fair, with hundreds more turned away due to lack of capacity in the room.
The book, published jointly by the London School of Jewish Studies (LSJS), Yeshiva University Press and Maggid Books, and featuring 13 essays by some of the world’s leading scholars, was written in honour of the Chief Rabbi on the occasion of his 65th birthday and completion of his Chief Rabbinate.
The London event marked the culmination of over three years’ work. Two of the book’s three editors, Rabbi Dr Michael J Harris of Hampstead Synagogue and Dr Tamra Wright of LSJS were on hand to discuss the Chief Rabbi’s intellectual legacy with special guest Dr Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg, one of the contributors to the book, and the Chief Rabbi himself. Co-editor Dr Daniel Rynhold of Yeshiva University was unable to attend the launch due to commitments in America.
Rabbi Harris began the formal proceedings by presenting the Chief Rabbi with a copy of the book. Expressing his delight, the Chief Rabbi said ‘This is the best gift I could have received – it has my heroes in it!’ Thanking the editors and contributors for their efforts, the Chief Rabbi added ‘Having edited a book like this myself, I know how much work goes into such a project.’
Although the Chief Rabbi had been shown the contents before the launch, the editors went to great lengths to ensure that he would not see the book itself before the event and Radical Responsibility was not on sale in the UK until the evening of the launch.
After the formal presentation, Dr Zornberg, who has known the Chief Rabbi since they were both students in Cambridge, delivered a short lecture entitled To Be or Not to Be: A Tale of Five Sisters. This was followed by a discussion between her and the Chief Rabbi, facilitated by the two editors, exploring the overall themes of Radical Responsibility. Introducing the conversation, Dr Wright asked for the house lights to be dimmed and invited the audience to imagine they were eavesdropping on this conversation between old friends.
The Jerusalem launch, by contrast, was a much more formal evening, with mini-lectures by Rabbi Dr Binyamin Lau and Professor Moshe Halbertal, both Jerusalem-based contributors to the book, followed by an enthralling response by the Chief Rabbi.
Speaking after the event, Gila Fine, Editor-in-Chief at Maggid Books, said:
“We knew this was a remarkable work, so expectations for the launch were high. But even in our most optimistic of scenarios, we did not foresee this breakaway success. The many hundreds who came, the very warm reception, the avid media interest, and the social media buzz, took us by surprise. The Chief Rabbi has been published in Israel before, but has never received so much attention. We’re absolutely thrilled, and are extremely grateful to Tamra, Michael, and Daniel who made it all possible.”
Rabbi Harris said:
“It has been a privilege and pleasure to work on this book and to honour the Chief Rabbi’s enormous intellectual contribution. We hope that many people will be enriched by the book’s essays and that it will further promote the Chief Rabbi’s vision of Torah VeChochmah, Torah in conversation with secular wisdom”.
The Chief Rabbi said, “Receiving Radical Responsibility was a truly wonderful gift and I am grateful to the editors and contributors, and the team at Maggid, for all their efforts.”
A third event celebrating the publication of Radical Responsibility will be held at Yeshiva University in New York on March 6.
For coverage of the Jerusalem launch in the Israeli press, click here: