Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Commonwealth, won one of the world’s largest prizes, the $1.5 million Templeton Prize, which recognizes individuals for contributions to life’s spiritual dimensions, announced the John Templeton Foundation today.
During his service as chief rabbi from 1991 to 2013, Sacks is credited with revitalizing British Jewry, according to a press release from the foundation. Sacks promoted Jewish ethical responsibility and created organizations dedicated to fostering Jewish approaches to contemporary issues in business and women’s equality.
“Today the most powerful religious voices are coming from the extremes and I think that is terribly dangerous. They are speaking to young idealistic kids and turning them really into murderers and we can’t sit still and just let that happen,” Sacks told Reuters.
“I think religious leaders have to give the same power and passion to the forces of reconciliation, compassion, forgiveness, love, friendship across the boundaries between faiths,” he added.
Sacks is the author of over 25 books, most recently Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence. He currently teaches Jewish thought at New York University and Yeshiva University.
The foundation praised Sacks’s “appreciation and respect of all faiths, with an emphasis that recognizing the values of each is the only path to effectively combat the global rise of violence and terrorism.”
Sacks will formally receive the Templeton, whose award is bigger than that attached to the Nobel or MacArthur prizes, at a May 26 ceremony in London. Sacks has also received the Jerusalem Prize, and was knighted in 2005 by Queen Elizabeth.
Previous winners of the Templeton Prize include South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu in 2013 and the Dalai Lama in 2012.