Rabbi Jonathan Sacks To Speak At Duke On Religiously Motivated Violence

One of the most honored religious leaders in Great Britain, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks will speak at Duke in March.
One of the most honored religious leaders in Great Britain, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks will speak at Duke in March.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, a religious leader, philosopher and author of more than 30 books, will deliver two public lectures at Duke University and meet with scholars, students and local clergy March 27-29. 

Sacks will be brought to campus by the Morris B. Abram Distinguished Residency, made possible by a gift to Duke from the Abram family in honor of the late civil rights activist, attorney and president of Brandeis University.

Sacks, a member of the British House of Lords and winner of the 2016 Templeton Prize in recognition of his “exceptional contributions to affirming life’s spiritual dimension,” served as Chief Rabbi of the British Commonwealth from 1991 to 2013. He currently serves as the Ingeborg and Ira Rennert Global Distinguished Professor at New York University.

Sacks’ most recent book, “Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence,” examines the concept of “altruistic evil” and identifies the roots of faith-based violence in misreadings of key biblical texts.

“Too often in the history of religion, people have killed in the name of the God of life, waged war in the name of the God of peace, hated in the name of the God of love and practiced cruelty in the name of the God of compassion,” Sacks wrote. “When this happens, God speaks, sometimes in a still, small voice almost inaudible beneath the clamor of those claiming to speak on his behalf. What he says at such times is: ‘Not in My Name.’”

Adam Abram, Morris Abram’s son, said“Rabbi Sacks’ work and teachings direct us toward an appreciation of how every major tradition shares core beliefs about what is holy and how a proper understanding of shared values can be the basis of respect and peace between people with different traditions. These are also values taught by Duke University.

“The Abram family is proud to remember Morris B. Abram, who dedicated his career to human rights, by supporting Rabbi Sacks’ visit to Duke and Durham.”

Among his career contributions, Morris Abram served as the U.S. representative to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights; founded U.N. Watch, a nongovernmental organization that monitors U.N. performance; and helped draft the fourth Geneva Convention, which established international law with regard to protecting civilians in war zones. He worked for 14 years to overturn a Georgia rule that gave less weight to votes cast by urban black voters, and pursued other legal changes in his home state to protect civil rights activists.

Public events during Sacks’ residency are:

-- Monday, March 27, 5:30 p.m.Rabbi Sacks and Imam Abdullah Antepli, chief representative for Muslim Affairs at Duke, will discuss “Civility and Difference,” with Duke Divinity School Professor Ellen Davis serving as moderator. Penn Pavilion. Seating is first-come, first-served. Co-sponsored by the Duke Center for Jewish Studies and the Religions in Public Life Initiative. Contact: Serena Bazemore serena.elliott@duke.edu

-- Tuesday, March 28, 5:30 p.m. “Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence,” a 2017 Terry Sanford Distinguished Lecture, with introduction by Duke President Richard Brodhead. Fleishman Commons, Sanford School of Public Policy. Seating is first-come, first-served. Contact: Mary Lindsley, mary.lindsley@duke.edu

-- Tuesday, March 28, 6:45 p.m., Public reception and book signing. Main Lobby, Sanford School of Public Policy. Contact: Mary Lindsley, mary.lindsley@duke.edu

In addition to the public events, local clergy have been invited to an interfaith luncheon on Wednesday, March 29. Additional information will be made available online at www.sites.duke.edu/abramdistinguishedresidency.

Sacks’ visit is co-sponsored by the Religions in Public Life Initiative at the Kenan Institute for Ethics; the Duke Center for Jewish Studies; the Samuel and Ronnie Heyman Center for Ethics, Public Policy, and the Professions; the Sanford School of Public Policy; and Duke Student Affairs.