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At the end of Ritual Slaughter, Sidney Brichto's book about growing up Jewish in America, he wrote: "I shall die happy, if someone offers me something to which I will be able to say in my dying breath, ‘Yes'." I am sure that Sidney died a happy man. I have never met anybody who was blessed with a more positive attitude to everyone and everything he encountered. Just as Sidney said "Yes" to God, when he was called to the life of a rabbi, so he said "Yes" to friendship with Jews and Gentiles alike.

It was, as he said, his deep commitment to Jewish life that made him feel so secure in the company of non-Jews.

Perhaps because Sidney was the "baby" of his family, he relished the late Pope John Paul II's description of the Jewish people as the "elder brothers" of the Christians, and he reciprocated with a genuine affection for the younger religion, despite the past centuries of persecution in the name of Jesus. Certainly, Sidney had the intellectual confidence to use his vast biblical erudition to engage with issues that were not only scholarly but controversial for both faiths. He liked nothing better than to test on his Christian friends the bold ideas that inspired him to be the first rabbi to translate not only the Hebrew Scriptures but also the New Testament into English.

Such debates, however heated, always ended with Sidney giving us his infectious grin and announcing: "I enjoyed that!" Those of us who were there will never forget a gathering of the Israel Diaspora Trust with the late Zaki Badawi. Much as he enjoyed the company of the founder of the Muslim College, Sidney did not flinch from saying exactly what he thought about the impact of radical Islam on British society. Both men were members of the Athenaeum. I think it gave Sidney, the rabbi from Philadelphia whose parents spoke only Yiddish, considerable pleasure to feel just as much at home in this very English institution as any Anglican bishop.

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