November 22, 2021, London – Today, The Genesis Prize Foundation honored the late Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks with the Genesis Lifetime Achievement Award.
The award recognizes Lord Sacks for his extraordinary role in inspiring the next generation of Jews, and his illustrious life-long work as a teacher of Jewish values and an advocate of inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue.
The President of Israel Isaac Herzog presented the award to Lady Elaine Sacks at a special event celebrating the life and legacy of Rabbi Sacks, organized by The Genesis Prize Foundation in London around the first anniversary of his passing.
President Herzog said: "Rabbi Sacks became a masterful articulator of the Jewish foundation of universal values, while unapologetically verbalizing a proud, dignified Jewish identity. His innate, God-given power of expression gave voice to the contribution of Judaism and the State of Israel to humanity at large. Rabbi Sacks represented the history, the moral code, and the spirit of Judaism with dignity and adoration. He valiantly advocated for the State of Israel. He reached across the aisle and across different religions; he brought the Torah down from the heavens—to the smartphone generation. This is Rabbi Sacks’ legacy. Each of us can step up, light our own flame, and lead, in ancient days and in our times."
Rabbi Sacks becomes the tenth Genesis honoree, and only the second recipient of the Genesis Lifetime Achievement Award. The inaugural Award was bestowed on Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the United States Supreme Court when she visited Israel in July 2018.
Rabbi Sacks served as the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth between 1991 and 2013. He gained global renown as a scholar, ambassador of Judaism and Jewish values, theologian, philosopher, prolific author, and proponent of interfaith dialogue.
In 2020, Rabbi Sacks was nominated for the Genesis Prize, and became one of the finalists for the 2021 award. He passed away in November 2020, three weeks before the conclusion of the voting campaign, during which tens of thousands of Jews cast their votes for Rabbi Sacks. Because the Genesis Prize is awarded only to living individuals, Rabbi Sacks z’l was not eligible to be considered for the 2021 Genesis Prize. The 2021 Prize was awarded to the extraordinary filmmaker and philanthropist Steven Spielberg.
Co-founder and Chairman of the Genesis Prize Foundation Stan Polovets said: “For decades, Rabbi Sacks and his teachings, remarkable in their wisdom and moral clarity, served as a guiding light to millions. The Genesis Lifetime Achievement Award is a declaration of profound gratitude from the global Jewish community, and an expression of our common desire to keep this light shining for future generations.”
The gala dinner at which the award was presented to Lady Sacks drew an audience of more than 150 distinguished leaders of the UK and international Jewry and friends of the Jewish community, including former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Theresa May, the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth Ephraim Mirvis, Israel’s Ambassador to the UK Tzipi Hotovely, the UK Ambassador to Israel Neil Wigan, and Ronit Ben-Dor, Chargee d’affaires of Israel’s Embassy in France. Two Genesis Prize Laureates, Sir Anish Kapoor (2017) and Natan Sharansky (2020) were in attendance, along with two finalists for the 2022 Genesis Prize, Pfizer Chairman and CEO Albert Burla and legendary Nazi hunter Serge Klarsfeld.
HRH The Prince of Wales addressed the audience in a pre-recorded video message, saying: “Rabbi Lord Sacks combined the sacred and the secular, rooted to his particular faith yet remaining open to the universal wisdom of humankind… Rabbi Sacks was an eloquent and moral presence in our lives… he was a global ambassador par excellence for the Jewish people and moral values. He personified and lived, as he described, “a Judaism engaged with the world.” It is for these reasons, and many others, that I am so delighted to see Rabbi Sacks be posthumously recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award by The Genesis Prize Foundation.”
A documentary tribute to Rabbi Sacks’ ideas and impact, produced by The Genesis Prize Foundation, premiered at the event. To watch, please visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=113xZqnkMnc.
About The Genesis Prize Foundation
The Genesis Prize Foundation administers the Genesis Prize, a global award that celebrates Jewish achievement and contribution to humanity.
The annual $1 million Genesis Prize, dubbed the “Jewish Nobel” by Time magazine, honors extraordinary individuals for their outstanding professional achievement, contribution to humanity, and commitment to Jewish values.
Previous Genesis Prize laureates are former New York City Mayor and philanthropist Michael Bloomberg (2014); actor, producer and peace activist Michael Douglas (2015); Itzhak Perlman, virtuoso violinist and advocate for individuals with special needs (2016); sculptor and advocate for the rights of refugees Sir Anish Kapoor (2017); Oscar-winning actress and social activist Natalie Portman (2018); owner of New England Patriots and founder of a new foundation to combat anti-Semitism Robert Kraft (2019); legendary Jewish leader and human rights activist Natan Sharansky (2020) and filmmaker Steven Spielberg (2021).
In 2018, the Genesis Prize Foundation honored US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with its inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award for her contribution to social justice and equal rights. The 2021 award to the late Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks is the first posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award.
About Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
An international religious leader, philosopher, award-winning author and respected moral voice, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks was a frequent and sought-after contributor to radio, television and the press both in Britain and around the world.
After stepping down as the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth – a position he served for 22 years between 1991 and 2013 – Rabbi Sacks held a number of professorships at several academic institutions including Yeshiva University, New York University and King’s College London. Rabbi Sacks was awarded 18 honorary doctorates including a Doctor of Divinity conferred to mark his first ten years in office as Chief Rabbi, by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey.
Rabbi Sacks authored 37 books. His most recent work, Morality: Restoring the Common Good in Divided Times (2020), was a top ten Sunday Times bestseller and was published in North America on 1st September 2020 and was named as the 2020 ‘Book of the Year’ by the National Jewish Book Council. Other works include: Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence; The Great Partnership: God, Science and the Search for Meaning; The Dignity of Difference: How to Avoid the Clash of Civilizations (winner of the Grawemeyer Prize for Religion in 2004 for its success in defining a framework for interfaith dialogue between people of all faith and of none); To Heal a Fractured World: The Ethics of Responsibility; and A Letter in the Scroll: On Being Jewish, winner of a National Jewish Book Awards in 2000.
As a biblical scholar, Rabbi Sacks published a new English translation and commentary for the Koren Sacks Siddur, the first new Orthodox siddur in a generation, as well as powerful commentaries for the Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot Machzorim. His Covenant & Conversation commentaries on the weekly Torah portion are read in Jewish communities around the world.
In recognition of his work, Rabbi Sacks received, among others, the Jerusalem Prize in 1995 for his contribution to diaspora Jewish life, The Ladislaus Laszt Ecumenical and Social Concern Award from Ben Gurion University in Israel in 2011, The Guardian of Zion Award from the Ingeborg Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies at Bar-Ilan University in 2014, and The Katz Award in recognition of his contribution to the practical analysis and application of Halacha in modern life in Israel in 2014. He was named as The Becket Fund’s 2014 Canterbury Medalist for his role in the defense of religious liberty in the public square; won a Bradley Prize in 2016 in recognition of being “a leading moral voice in today’s world”; and in 2017, he was awarded the Irving Kristol Award from the American Enterprise Institute for his “remarkable contributions to philosophy, religion, and interfaith discourse… as one of the world’s greatest living public intellectuals.” In 2018, he was given the Lifetime Achievement Award by The London Jewish News in recognition of his services to the Jewish world and wider society.
Rabbi Sacks was knighted by Her Majesty The Queen in 2005 and made a Life Peer, taking his seat in the House of Lords in October 2009. Born in 1948 in London, he married Elaine in 1970. Together they raised three children.
Rabbi Sacks passed away on 7th November 2020, aged 72. He leaves behind a legacy as one of the greatest Jewish thinkers of the 20th century, one who bridged the religious and secular world through his remarkable and ground-breaking canon of work.