Rabbi Jonathan Sacks awarded $1.5 million Templeton Prize

Marcy Oster

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

(JTA) — Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks has been awarded the 2016 Templeton Prize, which honors a living person who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension.

Sacks, the former chief rabbi of Britain and the author of more than two dozen books, will receive a cash prize worth about $1.5 million.

The announcement was made Wednesday morning at the British Academy in London by the Pennsylvania-based John Templeton Foundation.

The prize will be formally awarded at a ceremony on May 26 in London. It is one of the largest prizes awarded to an individual. Established in 1972 by the late global investor and philanthropist Sir John Templeton, the prize is “a cornerstone of the John Templeton Foundation’s international efforts to serve as a philanthropic catalyst for discoveries relating to the Big Questions of human purpose and ultimate reality,” the prize committee said in a statement.

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Sacks, 67, served as Chief Rabbi from 1991 to 2013, and revitalized Britain’s Jewish community during his tenure, according to the prize committee. The committee’s statement also said: “During his tenure he catalyzed a network of organizations that introduced a Jewish focus in areas including business, women’s issues and education, and urged British Jewry to turn outward to share the ethics of their faith with the broader community. Central to his message is 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 was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2005 and awarded a Life Peerage in the British House of Lords in 2009.  He currently serves as Professor of Judaic Thought at New York University; Professor of Jewish Thought at Yeshiva University, New York; and Professor of Law, Ethics and the Bible at King’s College, London.

Other recipients include Mother Teresa, who received the inaugural Prize award in 1973, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1983), and philosopher Charles Taylor (2007). Last year’s Prize winner was Canadian theologian Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche, an international network of communities where people with and without intellectual disabilities live and work together as peers. The 2014 Laureate was Czech priest and philosopher Tomáš Halík, following Desmond Tutu, the former Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, in 2013 and the Dalai Lama in 2012.

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