jonathan sacks in full santa claus garbs.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
In his maiden speech in the House of Lords on Thursday, Britain's Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks paid homage to Britain and said it was a sense of indebtedness to the country that drives Jews to make the vast contribution they make to society.
"It took me a while to understand it, but eventually I came to realize what so many Jews in Britain know in their hearts and their very bones, that had it not been for this country, their parents or grandparents would not have lived and they would not have been born," he told the House.
Lord Sacks was honored with a life peerage in July and was elevated to the Lords in a ceremony last month.
"That visceral sense of indebtedness is what made Jews in this country want to give back, to contribute to society as a whole, which they did with all their heart. They contributed to its arts and sciences, its law and medicine, its business and finance, its armed forces and its public life, its charities and voluntary associations.
"And they wanted us to do the same, to be proud of being British and proud of being Jewish, seeing no contradiction between the two but on the contrary, a mutual reinforcement. And I believe the same is true for other minority groups in this country."
He told the House his parents loved Britain because of its "virtues of tolerance, its decency and its undemonstrative yet indomitable sense of fairness and justice.
"The powerful emotion I feel today is simply explained. My late father came here as a child fleeing persecution in Poland. My mother's family had arrived here somewhat earlier. And the love they felt for Britain was intense," he told the House.
The chief rabbi said that Judaism teaches that freedom depends on education and suggested that secular schools could learn from the value Jews have always placed on learning, which he said had been responsible for preserving Judaism.
"If there is one insight above all others to be gained from Jewish history it is that freedom depends on education," he said. "To defend a country you need an army but to defend a civilization you need schools. Abraham was chosen, says the Bible, so that he would teach his children to practice righteousness and justice.
"Moses commanded, in what has become the most famous of our prayers, 'You shall teach these things diligently to your children.' In ancient times the Egyptians built pyramids, the Greeks built temples, the Romans built amphitheaters. Jews built schools. And because of that, alone among ancient civilizations, Judaism survived."
Sacks also praised the House of Lords for its ability to deliberate and discuss in an age of "clashing soundbites and angry voices."
"What extraordinary things happen here. When somebody speaks, other people listen. When people disagree, they do so politely," he said.
Meanwhile, the government is allegedly preparing to give a peerage to the head of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) to "balance" the peerage given to the chief rabbi according to The Jewish Chronicle.
The weekly community paper said that Muhammad Abdul Bari, secretary general of the MCB, was proposed at a meeting in the Prime Minister's Office last week, even though the government has suspended relations with the Muslim organization.
The government clashed with the MCB in March after its deputy secretary general, Daud Abdullah, signed a declaration, following Operation Cast Lead, calling for attacks on Jewish communities and British troops.