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Chief scoops prize

by: Leslie Bunder - Last updated: 2003-12-02

Chief Rabbi Dr Jonathan Sacks

Chief Rabbi Dr Jonathan Sacks

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The Chief Rabbi, Dr Jonathan Sacks has scooped a $200,000 prize for his book The Dignity of Difference.

Judges of the Grawemeyer Award for Religion which has been running since 1990, were impressed by the Chief Rabbi's 2002 book which was updated earlier this year following controversy within the Jewish community on how it covered certain topics including evolutionary theory.

The prestigious award will see Dr Sacks collecting his prize in equal instalments over five years.

“Sacks argues that as long as we see ‘the other’ (those who are not like us) as a threat to our  beliefs and way of life, we are headed for doom,” says Dr. Susan R. Garrett, Professor of New Testament at Louisville Seminary and Coordinator of the Grawemeyer Award in Religion. “Sacks makes a biblical and theological case for valuing difference, petitioning us to look upon ‘the other’ as enriching the collective heritage of humankind,” she added.

At the moment, the Chief Rabbi has not revealed how he intends to use his prize win.

"The Chief Rabbi is expected to outline his plans to build upon ideas outlined in diginity of difference in the first quarter of next year," said a spokesman for Dr Sacks.

"It would be encouraging to see the Chief Rabbi give part of his win to a community project," one charity worker told SomethingJewish. "With such a big win, it really would not be right for him to keep it all especially given that many charities and groups need support."

At the time of the book's paperback edition, the Chief Rabbi said: "As well as attracting interest, The Dignity of Difference aroused controversy within the Jewish community, some people arguing that certain passages could be misconstrued. Accordingly, for the paperback edition I have rephrased those passages about which concern was raised, as well as removing incidental references to evolutionary theory and the age of the universe, a full discussion of which belongs elsewhere.

The annual Grawemeyer award seeks to "honour and publicise insights into the relationship between human beings and the divine and the ways this relationship may empower human beings to attain wholeness, integrity or meaning."

The award is given jointly by Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and the University of Louisville to "the originators of 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.”

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Take part in an online poll - Should the Chief Rabbi keep all the money?