(JTA) — Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi of Britain, has been awarded the 2016 Templeton Prize honoring a living person who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension.
Sacks, the author of more than two dozen books, will receive a cash prize worth about $1.5 million. He will receive the prize, one of the largest awarded to an individual, at a May 26 ceremony in London.
The announcement was made Wednesday morning at the British Academy in London by the Pennsylvania-based John Templeton Foundation. The prize was established in 1972 by the late global investor and philanthropist Sir John Templeton.
Sacks, 67, served as chief rabbi from 1991 to 2013, and revitalized Britain’s Jewish community during his tenure, according to the prize committee.
“During his tenure he catalyzed a network of organizations that introduced a Jewish focus in areas including business, women’s issues and education, and urged British Jewry to turn outward to share the ethics of their faith with the broader community,” the committee said in a statement. “Central to his message is appreciation and respect of all faiths, with an emphasis that recognizing the values of each is the only path to effectively combat the global rise of violence and terrorism.”
Sacks was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2005. He currently serves as a professor of Judaic thought at New York University and Yeshiva University, and as a professor of law, ethics and the Bible at King’s College in London.
In a statement delivered at the announcement of the prize, Sacks said: “I believe that religion, or more precisely, religions, should have a voice in the public conversation within the societies of the West, as to how to live, how to construct a social order, how to enhance human dignity, honor human life, and indeed protect life as a whole from environmental hazard. … Religion must have a voice in the public conversation, but it must be a reasoned and reasonable voice and one that makes space for other voices also.”
Past recipients include Mother Teresa, who received the inaugural prize, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in 1983, and the and the Dalai Lama in 2012.