The British Hindu Community Salutes Lord Sacks
This week, as thousands of British Hindus celebrate Diwali (albeit virtually due to Covid-19), many will also be paying tribute to Lord Jonathan Sacks who was an inspiration to us all for the role he played in promoting community cohesion.
On behalf of the British Hindu community, I wish to pay tribute to my dear friend Lord Sack’s extraordinary life and the things we shared as a community. The weight and warmth of his words reached far beyond the Jewish community, to all in society. He was an intellectual and moral leader; a champion for coming together and understanding one another in a society increasingly fixated with one’s self.
I connected with Lord Sacks over the strong commonalities between the British Jewish community and the British Hindu community. My family and I came to this country from Uganda more than forty-five years ago to escape a brutal dictator, and Britain welcomed us. For us, British Jews were a positive example of what immigrants can achieve by integrating fully into society. In them, we saw people who not only survived horrific persecution but also thrived despite it. Our two communities live side by side, and we have a number of shared values. Each attaches importance to hard work, education, enterprise, family and faith. We also share an unshakable loyalty to this great country, the United Kingdom.
With characteristic eloquence, Lord Sacks echoed this point about loyalty to our country: “I grew up here and I love Britain. I think to be a Jew in the last 1,800 years is to learn how to be faithful to your Jewish heritage while interacting with another culture, in my case the English culture in which I grew up and to which I’m very attached to.” There is no better advert for integration in a society extremely divided on many fronts.
In 2018, Lord Sacks shared with the House of Lords his wise words on growing antisemitism in the UK in a debate I initiated in the House of Lords. He brilliantly illuminated the deeply worrying situation we currently face: “The greatest danger any civilisation faces is when it suffers from collective amnesia. We forget how small beginnings lead to truly terrible endings… Antisemitism is the hardest of all hatreds to defeat because, like a virus, it mutates, but one thing stays the same. Jews, whether as a religion or a race or as the State of Israel, are made the scapegoat for problems for which all sides are responsible. That is how the road to tragedy begins.” My pledge – the least I can do for humanity and my late friend – is to continue to do all I can to support the Jewish community in the injustices they face and fight antisemitism from all quarters. We must speak up on this matter, irrespective of our religious affiliations: when we are silent in the face of hatred, then we help hate to spread.
Lord Sacks was a champion of pluralism and acceptance. He believed in the ‘dignity of difference,’ and sought tirelessly to encourage others to understand one another. He taught us to build bridges and come together. He helped us see that working together is a much more powerful force than working alone. These are values also embodied in the great Hindu festival, Diwali, coming up this week.
Lord Sacks may have been taken from us, but everything he stood for will live on. He’ll be sorely missed.