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Poster Commentary
"It’s when the winds blow the hardest that you need the deepest roots."Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
Poster design:Frances Jetter


Interview and commentary by Beth Kissileff

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks’s image of blowing winds threatening a tree is inspired by Psalm I. This Psalm compares a righteous person to “a tree planted by rivers of water” which bears abundant fruit and whose leaves do not wither. In contrast, the wicked are compared to “chaff” blown by the wind.

The Jewish people, like a deeply-rooted tree, face two dangers, according to Sacks. Firstly, “high winds” threaten to knock over the tree. “The high winds are anti-Semitism,” which Sacks believes can be defeated, but only when Jews “form a common front, an alliance in defense of human dignity and religious liberty.”

The second risk which a tree faces is lack of water, which causes the leaves to shrivel and the tree to die. Sacks compares this to Jews who “don’t study Judaism…Torah is water…Without the Torah, you don’t feed the roots, and the leaves eventually wither and die.” Sacks is confident that engagement with the rich Jewish literary tradition can reconnect Jews to their roots and water source. “We are a religion whose heroes are teachers, citadels are houses of study, and the passion is for education.” Sacks credits technology, particularly the Internet, with expanding and enhancing opportunities to connect to our literary tradition.

Connecting to the past is only the beginning, says Sacks. “We are in love with the past but not in the past. Jews are the greatest example in history of a forward looking people.” For Jews, “Ancient truth remains contemporary. The old is perennially renewed.”

Beth Kissileff is a writer, freelance journalist, and educator. She is the author of a forthcoming novel, Questioning Return, and editor of an anthology, Reading Genesis. Her writing has appeared in,,,, Huffington Post, The Tower, Jewish Review of Books, Tablet, The Forward, Jerusalem Report, Jerusalem Post, and The Jewish Week. Kissileff has taught Jewish studies and English literature at a number of universities and in adult education settings.

Conversation Guide


1. What does the metaphor of “deepest roots” suggest to you?

2. What are the deepest roots to your Judaism? What winds threaten them?

3. How can contemporary Jews remain true to their roots, but also adapt to new environments and situations? How do new and old coexist in Jewish tradition?



1. What insights about the quote are communicated by the way the characters are arranged? What sort of winds do you think are blowing against them?

2. The characters are focused straight ahead, looking at the viewer. What could they be saying to you?

3. How do the choice of color and style or art support the quote? What emotion does this image create in you?


Frames of Mind©2015, Frances Jetter, Quote: Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Harold Grinspoon Foundation, West Springfield, MA