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Sacks appeal?

by: Leslie Bunder - Last updated: 2005-09-26

Bob Geldof and Sir Jonathan Sacks

Bob Geldof and Sir Jonathan Sacks

You know it's that time of the year when the Chief Rabbi of the United Synagogue is given a late night slot just before Rosh Hashanah to deliver his New Year message on BBC1.

And this year is no exception as Sir Jonathan Sacks goes in front of the screen for My Brother's Keeper and offers a reflection of the past year from tragedies such as the London Bombings and the South Asian Tsunami to showing how those with learning difficulties in the Jewish community can be integrated and given respect.
Sir Jonathan starts with the London Bombings and shows his speech at the Trafalgar Square memorial in which he invites all people to unite which is central to the rest of the programme. The key theme is understanding and respect for fellow human beings, something which Sir Jonathan is excellent in doing for interfaith, but has been criticised in the past for not showing within his own diverse community.
His interviews on screen are diverse.  The Chancellor Gordon Brown offers his thoughts on why cancelling debt relief is important and talks of his own upbringing while Bob Geldof talks about his anger and how that is channelled into the positive work he has done in raising awareness of poverty in Africa.
We also are given a glimpse into the work of Jewish social action and how the Jewish community is concerned about world poverty and the importance to be involved in national and international events such as Make Poverty History.
From the theme of poverty, Sir Jonathan then tackles the issue of social inclusion and looks at those with learning disabilities and the work of Kisharon and its founder, Chava Lehman..  We see Heskey and how being involved in a school such as Kisharon has brought hope to his life, first as a child and now as an adult.
From there, the Chief Rabbi meets a couple who were caught up in the Asian Tsunami last December and how certain questions can never be answered. Amanda Simons says she was saved by a Thai man and a few hours later, she saw his dead body, she asks how does that happen. Her partner Daryl Phillips  talks about the help and support he was given by local Thai people despite their own personal problems and tragedy that affected them.
Along with Amanda and Daryl,  was Liran Yechiel  who joined them and talked about how once things started to settle, they as a group went back to Thailand to offer help in rebuilding peoples lives.  Sir Jonathan mentioned it was a Jewish group who went out there to which all three belonged and Daryl said it didn't matter to him what the group was as long as he was able to go back and help.
An attempt was made to show some diversity in the Jewish community, Amanda and Daryl did not conform to the general image that Sir Jonathan usually portrays of Jews in Britain, that of orthodox Jews.   Daryl himself was not wearing a head covering.
So in that respect, the programme can be commended in not just showing those who subscribe to Sir Jonathan's own orthodox lifestyle.
Throughout the programme, we hear and see Sir Jonathan talk of respect for others and understanding each other, along with the need to looks at ways to improve the world and try to make things better.
To a certain extent, Sir Jonathan succeeded in delivering a message of hope. But deep down, one is left with a feeling of how sincere is he really?  How much does Sir Jonathan actually care when off the camera and what is he doing himself to mend his own fractured community.
Only Sir Jonathan can answer those questions, but if he is able to start acting on his own message, then maybe he will be able to prove that what he says on TV, radio and print is something he can follow himself and therefore a path for others too.

My Brother's Keeper is on BBC ONE 2 October