Rabbi Andy Sacks, leading Masorti rabbi, passes away


Rabbi Andy Sacks z”l

Trailblazing Masorti rabbi
with a big heart


We dedicate this entire newsletter to a (very partial) summary of the too-short life of our beloved friend and teacher, and to bid farewell to Rabbi Andrew (Andy) Sacks, who passed away this last Shabbat (June 29). There is hardly anyone familiar with the Masorti Movement who does not know Andy, and many of our partners abroad have likely met him at least once. In his lifetime, Andy was an impressive rabbinic figure and a highly significant and important leader in the Masorti team, as well as in other branches of our movement.

Andy’s final journey was to Be’er Sheva, where he was laid to rest at the “Menucha Nechona” cemetery for egalitarian burial, which he promoted for many years, as part of the struggle for religious pluralism in Israel. The funeral was sad, emotional and painful, in light of Andy’s life cut short due to his illness, yet also humorous, in reflection of how Andy lived his life. In person and on Zoom, hundreds of family members, friends, colleauges and those he had helped came to bid farewell to Rabbi Andy, with many committing themselves to continuing in his life’s work.

Early Years

Andy was born in Philadelphia and, from a young age, displayed the qualities that would serve him in his many roles in the Masorti Movement: openness, fearlessness and, when necessary, defiance. His unique sense of humor was forever present – causing his classmates to believe that such an American-Jewish boy could never become a rabbi and educator. How wrong they were! About 20 years later, Andy was appointed as the rabbi of Beth Am Israel, in the Philadelphia suburbs, which would be his first role in a long and impressive rabbinic career, aimed at assisting thousands – indeed, tens of thousands – of people on their Jewish journies.

Aliyah to Israel

“Like many of my friends, I grew up in the U.S. with a strong connection to Israel. In our childhood, we saved money to buy trees for planting in Israel, learned Israeli songs, learned Hebrew, visited Israel, and marched in Israeli Independence Day parades. I remember well that my parents encouraged me to give part of my bar mitzvah gifts to Israel, and eventually, I made Aliyah,” Andy wrote during his lifetime.

Achievements in Israel

Andy devoted most of his life, energy and strength to his work in the Masorti Movement and his various roles as a rabbi. As the first Masorti mohel in Israel, as director of the Rabbinical Assembly in Israel, as head of Masorti’s Conversion Program, and its Av Beit Din (head of religious court), Andy professionally touched so many people in Israel, the United States, Africa, South America and other corners of the globe.

Andy’s expertise and passion were best felt on a local level. With his booming voice, Andy cracked the code for dealing with Israeli bureaucracy and an abstruse establishment that often harms the weak: shouting and not letting up for a moment. He handled every case himself, as if it affected him personally. In Knesset committees, in talks with the Ministry of the Interior, the Chief Rabbinate, and other state institutions, how he loved to fight for those whose voices were not heard, for those who wanted to convert to Judaism and join the Jewish People but encountered walls of insensitivity. He never forgot that we were once strangers in the land of Egypt.

Many converts from all over the world, regardless of color, race or gender, were assisted by his developed sense of justice and his uncompromising passion for worthy, albeit very complex, struggles. Some even came to pay their last respects and accompany him on his final journey.

Final Words

Rakefet Ginsberg, Masorti CEO, paid tribute to Rabbi Andy: “He was a beloved friend and partner, and above all, he was an ethical and principled marker and compass. He was a fierce yet noble fighter for justice, who never gave up his optimism or kindness, even until the very end. I already miss him!”

Rabbi Mikie Goldstein, Masorti’s director of Development, eulogized his friend and colleague: “Andy was my rabbi and teacher and one of the people who encouraged me to become a rabbi myself. In his almost 30 years at Masorti, he helped thousands of people connect to their Jewish selves, as well as caring for our rabbis in Israel. I will sorely miss him.”

Even after he retired and while he was ill, Andy insisted on continuing to make good use of his experience, and we at Masorti were only too happy to accept his help. After all, Andy was “a plastered cistern which loses not a drop” (Ethics of the Fathers 2:8). Literally.

The entire Masorti Movement and the Masorti Foundations in the US and Canada mourn and bid farewell to one of its pillars. We will perpetuate his name and memory through the Andy Fund for Assistance to Converts, to which you are invited to contribute.

We will conclude our farewell with two verses that perhaps best capture Andy’s personality:

הוֹלֵךְ תָּמִים וּפֹעֵל צֶדֶק וְדֹבֵר אֱמֶת בִּלְבָבוֹ

He who lives without blame, who does what is right, and in his heart acknowledges the truth (Psalms 15:2)

עֹשֶׂה מִשְׁפַּט יָתוֹם וְאַלְמָנָה וְאֹהֵב גֵּר

… upholds the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and befriends the stranger… (Deuteronomy 10:18)

Support the Andy Fund for Assistance to Converts


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