Chair

Jonathan Sacks, a philosopher and a scholar of Judaism, served as Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth for twenty-two years. After stepping down from the position in 2013, he was named Ingeborg and Ira Rennert Global Professor at New York University. Rabbi Sacks also serves as professor emeritus of law, ethics, and the Bible at King’s College London. For more than three decades, he has played a leading role in advancing dialogue between religious minorities and dominant cultures. Rabbi Sacks is a prolific writer who was recognized for his advocacy for the importance of religious traditions in public life with the 2016 Templeton Prize. Educated at Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge, where he took first-class honors in philosophy, he went on to study moral philosophy at New College, Oxford, earning a master’s degree in 1972. He was appointed a lecturer in Jewish philosophy at Jews’ College, London (now the London School of Jewish Studies), the next year, and in 1976, he received rabbinic ordination. Two years later, he was appointed the rabbi of Golders Green Synagogue in London. Rabbi Sacks was awarded a Ph.D. in collective responsibility in Jewish law from King’s in 1981. The next year, he accepted appointment to Chief Rabbi Lord Jakobovits’ Chair in Modern Jewish Thought at Jews’ College, and in 1984, he was named principal of the college (the world’s oldest rabbinical seminary), a position he held for the next six years. He also served as rabbi of Marble Arch Synagogue in London from 1983 to 1990 when he was named Chief Rabbi, the position to which he was inducted in 1991. During his service as the leader of British Jewry, he promoted the renewal of this Anglo-Jewish community in the face of dwindling congregations and growing secularization across Europe. Even as he emphasized the ethical dimensions of Judaism and the need for his co-religionists to share them with the broader community, he also stressed rabbinic teachings that proclaim wisdom, righteousness, and the possibility that true relationships with God are available to all cultures and religions. Rabbi Sacks was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2005 and awarded a Life Peerage in the British House of Lords in 2009. His numerous invited addresses include an address to the 2008 Lambeth Conference, a decennial assembly of bishops of the Anglican Communion convened by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and an address welcoming Pope Benedict XVI on the occasion of his visit to Great Britain in 2010. Among his eighteen honorary degrees is a Doctor of Divinity degree awarded at Lambeth Palace by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Rt. Hon. Rev. George Cary, in 2001, as well as honorary doctorates from eight UK universities, including Cambridge, St. Andrews, Glasgow, and Aberdeen, from Yeshiva University in New York, and from four universities in Israel. In addition to the Templeton Prize, his many awards include the 1995 Jerusalem Award and, most recently, the 2014 Canterbury Medal from The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the 2014 Katz Prize for the implementation of Jewish law in modern-day life, the 2014 Guardian of Zion Award for contributions to Jewish life in the diaspora, the 2015 Rambam Award for contributing to a meaningful and ethical Judaism throughout the world, and the 2016 Bradley Prize for contributions to American public life. A frequent contributor to radio, television, and the press, Rabbi Sacks is the author of some thirty books, including: A Letter in the Scroll (2000), winner of the (American) National Jewish Book Award; The Dignity of Difference (2002), winner of the Grawemeyer Award for Religion; Covenant and Conversation: Genesis (2009), winner of the (American) National Jewish Book Award; The Great Partnership: God, Science, and the Search for Meaning (2011/2012); and The Koren Sacks Pesach Machzor, winner of the (American) National Jewish Book Award. His latest book, Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence, which was published in 2015 by Hodder & Stoughton, won another (American) National Jewish Book Award, was ranked as a Top Ten bestseller by The Sunday Times, and inspired this symposium.