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Morris B. Abram Distinguished Residency with Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks


About The Residency

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, a respected religious leader, philosopher and author of more than 30 books, delivered two public lectures at Duke University and met with scholars, students and local clergy, March 27-29, 2017.

Sacks was 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 election 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 for Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks’ Residency:

  • Monday, March 27, Rabbi Sacks and Imam Abdullah Antepli, Muslim chaplain at Duke, discuss “Civility and Difference,” with Duke Divinity School Professor Ellen Davis serving as moderator. Co-sponsored by the Duke Center for Jewish Studies and the Religions in Public Life Program. Click here for full recording
  • Tuesday, March 28, “Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence,” a 2017 Terry Sanford Distinguished Lecture, with introduction by Duke President Richard Brodhead. Click here for full lecture | Click here for final Q&A segment
  • Tuesday, March 28, Public Reception and Book Signing

Sacks’ visit was co-sponsored by the Religions & Public Life Initiative of 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; Duke Student Affairs; and the Duke Office of Civic Engagement.


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