Genesis Prize Foundation Honours Rabbi Sacks

November 22, 2021

The Genesis Prize Foundation honoured the late Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks with the Genesis Lifetime Achievement Award on Monday evening, 22nd November 2021.

The award recognises 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, organised by The Genesis Prize Foundation in London around the first anniversary of his passing.

Genesis Lifetime Achievement Award Presentation
From left, Lady Elaine Sacks, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Theresa May, Genesis Prize Foundation Co-founder and Chairman Stan Polovets, President of Israel Isaac Herzog. (Photo: Thomas Alexander/ Genesis Prize Foundation)

President Herzog said: “Rabbi Sacks became a masterful articulator of the Jewish foundation of universal values, while unapologetically verbalising 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 recognised 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, which you can watch below.