Tag Archives: BBC

Jew of the Week: Sir Martin Gilbert

Martin John Gilbert (1936-2015) was born in London to parents of Russian-Jewish background. Soon after World War II broke out, the family was moved to Canada by the British government. Returning to England after the war, Gilbert finished his schooling and served for two years in the British Intelligence Corps. He then went to Oxford to study history. While a postgraduate in 1962, Gilbert was asked by Winston Churchill’s son Rudolph to assist as a researcher for Churchill’s biography. Randolph died a few years later, having brought forth just two volumes on Churchill. Gilbert took over and became the official biographer for Churchill, working on the project for over twenty five years, publishing many volumes along the way. (Currently, there are 31 books encompassing over 25,000 pages, and Gilbert had plans for more.) It was said that “Whoever made the decision to make Martin Gilbert Churchill’s biographer deserves a vote of thanks from the nation. Nothing less would suffice.” Aside from Churchill, Gilbert’s primary interests were studying the World Wars and the Holocaust, as well as producing historical atlases (his were among the very first produced). He also wrote a great deal of books and histories of Jewish communities, of Russia, Israel, and the Arab-Israeli conflict, as well as to assist the plight of Soviet Jewry. All in all, Gilbert published an astounding ninety books, many of which were highly acclaimed. His abilities as a scholar and writer were praised. His first volume on Churchill had an original rough draft with two million words (which Gilbert narrowed down to 300,000 for publication), while the short “precis” version of the biography was a mere 981 pages! Gilbert also wrote for The Sunday Times, and for a number of films and TV programs, did research for the BBC, lectured at the White House, and stood before the UN Human Rights Commission. Since 2009, he served as the Privy Counsellor of the British commission inquiring into the Iraq War. Gilbert won numerous awards and honourary degrees, and was knighted in 1995. Sadly, he passed away last week after a lengthy illness.

Words of the Week

Everything happens by Divine Providence. If a leaf is turned over by a breeze, it is only because this has been specifically ordained by God to serve a particular function within the purpose of creation.
– Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov

Jew of the Week: Jonathan Sacks

The Rabbi Baron

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

Jonathan Henry Sacks (b. 1948) was born in London, England, and studied at some of London’s finest schools, earning a Ph.D in philosophy in 1981. In the same year, he received his orthodox rabbinic ordination from Jew’s College, the world’s oldest rabbinic seminary. He went on to become principal of that seminary, while also serving as a community rabbi. In 1991 he was appointed as the British Commonwealth’s Chief Rabbi. He remained in this role for 22 years until retiring last September. Over the years, he taught as a visiting professor at several universities. He also authored 25 books, among them award-winning bestsellers. He was a popular guest on BBC Radio and TV programs, and wrote a regular column for The Times. Sacks holds 16 honourary degrees, together with a number of international awards for his work in promoting social justice and religious liberty, scholarly achievement, leadership, and inspiring Jewish life around the world. In 2009, he was introduced to England’s House of Lords, and was granted the title “Baron”. He was invited to the wedding of Prince William and Kate as the representative of the Jewish community. The Prince of Wales described Sacks as a “light unto this nation… whose guidance on any given issue has never failed to be of practical value and deeply grounded in the kind of wisdom that is increasingly hard to come by.” Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown described him as “…the greatest scholar I know, the greatest philosopher, the greatest writer I know, one of the greatest thinkers in the world…” Sacks continues to teach as a professor at New York University, Yeshiva University, and King’s College London. He is also a vegetarian.

Words of the Week

“A good leader creates followers; a great leader creates leaders.”

“To defend a country you need an army, but to defend a civilization you need education.”

“Technology gives us power, but it does not and cannot tell us how to use that power. Thanks to technology, we can instantly communicate across the world, but it still doesn’t help us know what to say.”

– Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks