Britain’s Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks delivered the Invocation prayer in the US Senate on Wednesday, becoming the first Jewish community leader from the UK to fulfill the honor.
Traditionally recited at the opening of each session of the Senate, it was the first time a British chief rabbi has been invited to deliver the prayer as guest chaplain.
Sacks was a guest of Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Connecticut). The prayer is usually performed by the chaplain of the United States Senate, though occasionally guest chaplains, recommended by senators, are invited to deliver the session’s opening prayer in his place.
In the prayer, which was composed especially for the occasion, the chief rabbi said the world must “honor the dignity of difference.”
“Teach us to honor the dignity of difference, recognizing that one who is not in our image is none the less in your image; never forgetting that the people not like us, are still people – like us,” states the prayer.
The prayer goes on to bless the members of Congress, and to ask God “and guide their deliberations, that they may govern this great nation with wisdom and justice, grace and compassion.” Sacks said it was a great honor to deliver the prayer.
“It emphasized not only the close relationship Britain and America share, but also between the Anglo- and American- Jewish communities. I am grateful to Senator Lieberman – an individual whose moral clarity and faith has always played such a central role in his political and personal life – and his colleagues in the Senate for granting me this opportunity,” he said.
“It was an honor and a privilege for the Senate to have Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks deliver the invocation,” Lieberman said. “The chief rabbi is a distinguished leader of the Jewish community of Britain and his presence represented the deep and enduring bond between the people of our two great countries. His wisdom and spiritual guidance was reflected in his prayer to the Senate and our work is enriched by his words to us.”
Sacks’ visit to Washington is part of a 10-day trip to the US and Canada that will see him speaking to Jewish communities, and to wider audiences, in Chicago, Boston, New York and Toronto.
On Tuesday, the chief rabbi was guest of honor at a lunch hosted by Lieberman in the Capitol building that was attended by a number of prominent Jewish members of Congress.
At the lunch, Sacks praised the congressmen for their leadership and spoke about the importance of promoting a Judaism unafraid to engage with the world.
The full text of the chief rabbi’s Invocation prayer to the Senate: “Sovereign of the universe, who created all in love, teach us to love all that is good and beautiful in this world. Teach us to honor the dignity of difference, recognizing that one who is not in our image is none the less in your image; never forgetting that the people not like us, are still people – like us.
“At this fateful moment in the human story, bless us that we may be a blessing to others.
Guide the nations of the world to honor you by honoring one another. So that by reaching out in love, we may turn enemies into friends, and become your family on earth as you are our parent in heaven.
“Beloved God, bless the members of this United States Congress and guide their deliberations, that they may govern this great nation with wisdom and justice, grace and compassion, bringing honor to your name, and your blessing to humankind.”