Louisville Seminary, the University of Louisville, and the Jewish community will welcome Professor Jonathan Sacks, chief rabbi of London, England, who will speak on his provocative book, The Dignity of Difference: How to Avoid the Clash of Civilizations, which was recognized with the 2004 Grawemeyer Award in Religion. Sacks’ address is scheduled for March 30 at 7 p.m. and will be held, free of charge, at the Jewish Community Center at 3600 Dutchman’s Lane in Louisville, Ky.
“For too long, the pages of history have been stained by blood shed in the name of God,” states Sacks. “Allied to weapons of mass destruction, extremist religious attitudes threaten the very security of life on earth. In our interconnected world, we must learn to feel enlarged, not threatened, by difference.” The book, which Sacks describes as “a plea – the most forceful I could make – for tolerance in an age of extremism,” was revised and published by Continuum (London) in 2003 and demonstrates how religion may function constructively to promote global peace.
For his work, Sack will receive the Grawemeyer medallion and a $200,000 prize, given jointly by Louisville Seminary and the University of Louisville. The Grawemeyer Award in Religion recognizes creative works that contribute significantly to an understanding of “the relationship between human beings and the divine and ways in which this relationship may inspire or empower human beings to attain wholeness, integrity, or meaning, either individually or in community.”
The Dignity of Difference is about globalization. It argues that the economics and politics of globalization have an inescapable moral dimension, which places great responsibility on the world’s religious communities. According to Sacks, such communities have emerged in the 21st century as key forces in a global age. But in order to be forces for peace, such communities must move beyond mere appreciation and respect for difference, beyond the temptation toward uniformity. Religious communities must recognize that difference is part of God’s design. Sacks’ book “provides a theology of difference.”
Sacks, who lives in London, has been Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth since 1991. He has a distinguished career also outside the Jewish community as a writer and broadcaster and is often a contributor to radio, television, and the national press. In 2001, the Archbishop of Canterbury conferred upon him the Doctorate of Divinity in recognition of his first ten years as Chief Rabbi. He has become widely recognized as one of the world’s leading contemporary exponents of Judaism.
Prior to becoming Chief Rabbi, Sacks was principal of Jews’ College, the oldest rabbinical seminary, and rabbi of the Golders Green and Marble Arch Synagogues, all in London.
He has taught in numerous graduate studies programs in London and Jerusalem and is currently visiting professor of theology at Kings’ College in England. In 12 years, Rabbi Sacks has written 13 books, five of which have been serialized in the national British Press.
The London Times called his The Politics of Hope (1997, 2000) “a remarkable book…which deserves to become a key text.” The Daily Telegraph wrote of The Dignity of Difference that it “stands far above other books about globalization and the so-called clash of civilizations, both for what it has to say and for the grace with which it says it.”
The Grawemeyer Foundation at the University of Louisville annually awards $1 million - $200,000 each - for works in music composition, education, ideas improving world order, religion, and psychology.
For more information about the awards or to make a nomination for 2005, visit www.grawemeyer.org. For information about the religion award events, contact Louisville Seminary at 502.895.3411, ext. 477. The Jewish Community Center phone number is 502.459.0660.