As students finished Kabbalat Shabbat and prepared for Ma’ariv on April 21, 2014, TAC President Sarah Alt stood up to address the student body that had anxiously awaited the Shabbat guest and lecturer. Alt introduced him by saying that she “could not think of a better role model than [Former Chief] Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, because he knows what it means to be a scholar in both Torah and Madda, and he is a leader that had contributed to his local community, his country, and the world at large.”
Students had awaited the visit of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks to visit Stern for Shabbat and to hear him lecture in person. Many members of the student body have read his books, listened to his shuirim, and even attended addresses to larger crowds. But few had heard him speak in the Leah and Leon Eiesenberg Beit Medrash at Stern College. Rabbi Sacks comes to Yeshiva University as the Kressel and Ephrat Family University Professor of Jewish Thought at Yeshiva University.
Since he was on the Beren Campus, Rabbi Sacks’ Dvar Torah was heavily geared toward topics relating to women. He talked about women and exile, and that throughout Jewish history, women have been the ones to help save the Jewish nation. Rabbi Sacks drove home the message of how important it is for women to understand their integral role in the fate of Jewish history. He urged the crowd not to sit back and let someone else call the shots, but to pull the reigns ourselves and create change for the good. He made sure to remind the student body of how fortunate we are to be in YU, an institution that gives us so many opportunities, and to step into leadership roles. Dana Weinstein, a sophomore, said that the content of Rabbi Sack’s speech was “relevant to everyone in the Stern student body, and it made us feel empowered to be woman leaders of the 21st century.” Students remarked that while he spoke to the room, he spoke to everyone as individuals as well. The presence President Joel and his wife, Dr. Esther Joel, enhanced rest of the evening as well.
Shabbat day the students heard from Rabbi Sacks again as he gave over his sermon after Torah reading. Rabbi Sacks’ overall message was that everyone has their own role in life and they must realize how much they can accomplish with it. “It was incredible to have Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks here with us for Shabbos,” says sophomore Aliza Chase. “His speeches were beautiful, and it was amazing to see such a great and famous Rabbi in person.”
After lunch students heard both Lady Sacks and Dr. Joel discuss their experiences of being the wives of illustrious figure-heads in the Jewish world. They spoke about the great opportunities it brought to them to help the Jewish people and to be role models.
This Shabbat was definitely a unique and memorable highlight of the spring semester. In a statement after Shabbat, Rabbi Sacks said “”Elaine and I thoroughly enjoyed the Shabbat we spent with the students at Stern College, sharing in the special atmosphere created on campus – full of simcha and ruach – and having the opportunity to learn Torah together. It was a wonderful experience and we look forward to coming back again soon!” It goes to show how lucky we are that we are members of a community that brings great leaders of our time for us to benefit an learn from.