Jonathan Sacks (2007)


Sir Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth since 1991, addressed the ways in which religions can be a source of peace rather than conflict in the 2007 Kenan Distinguished Lecture in Ethics, entitled “The Dignity of Difference: How to Avoid the Clash of Civilizations.”

A philosopher and theologian, Chief Rabbi Sacks has played a leading role in advancing dialogue between religious minorities and dominant cultures. He studied philosophy at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, New College Oxford and King’s College London. He is an honorary fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge and King’s College London.

His 2002 book, which shares the title of the Kenan Lecture, focuses on the key role of religion — and religious extremism — in world events. It is a plea from a Jewish theological perspective for people of faith to see those of different races, colors or creeds as an enrichment to mankind instead of as a threat. Sacks asks, “Can we see the presence of God in the face of a stranger?”

Prime Minister Tony Blair described Chief Rabbi Sacks as “a towering figure in the intellectual life of Britain today… [H]e relates the insights of religion to the modern world and retells the story of faith in a compelling way, and that is a rare and remarkable achievement.”

The 2007 lecture was cosponsored by the Office of the President, the Provost’s Common Fund, Jewish Life at Duke, Duke Chapel, the Divinity School, the Center for Jewish Studies, the Department of Religion, the Franklin Humanities Institute, the Department of Philosophy, the Sanford Institute of Public Policy, the Fuqua/Coach K Center of Leadership and Ethics (COLE), the Samuel DuBois Cook Society, the Trent Center for Bioethics, Humanities and History of Medicine, and the Gerst Program in Political, Economic and Humanistic Studies.