The central quality of leadership is not eloquence but moral courage, a preparedness to be hated in the pursuit what’s right. Moses was a stutterer who leaned on his brother Aaron as his spokesman. But what made him a leader was witnessing an Egyptian taskmaster savagely beating a Jew. Though Moses is a member of the Egyptian establishment, he speaks truth to power and allies himself with his people even though it means being rejected by the Egyptian hierarchy forever. Abraham Lincoln is said to have had a squeaky and high-pitched voice. His speeches were captivating in writing and remain among the most eloquent ever written. But the same was not true of the spoken word. But what made him a leader was the moral conviction that slavery was an absolute evil that had to be defeated and the Union was an unalloyed good that had to be defended. Winston Churchill was dismissed as a drunk and a crank by the British for sounding the alarm against Hitler. But his steadfastness in combating evil, amid being despised for it, is what saved Western civilization.
No doubt the only reason the Oxford Student Union even voted for to boycott Israeli academics is because it does not fear the reaction from respected Jewish academic colleagues. Indeed, many of its members believe that their Jewish counterparts condemn Israel as strongly as they do.
Jonathan Sacks will be remembered as one of the finest spokesman for Judaism that the office of Chief Rabbi ever produced, but also as a prime example of a leader who personally prospered in his tenure as rabbi while his community and constituency regressed in their national standing.
The next Chief Rabbi should take heed.