Yeshiva University’s ‘World of Tomorrow’ Conference

On Sunday 22nd October 2017, Rabbi Sacks participated in a public conversation with Rabbi Ari Lamm as part of Yeshiva University’s ‘World of Tomorrow’ Conference, held under the direction and leadership of its new President, Rabbi Dr Ari Berman.

Listen to the audio recording of the full conversation with Rabbi Lamm, which includes the clip featured in this video.

Rabbi Ari Lamm:

Underrated/overrated: interfaith dialogue?

Rabbi Sacks:

I am really and truly not a fan of interfaith dialogue. I’ll tell you why: interfaith dialogue takes place among very liberal-minded people. I don’t mean liberal in the sense of reformed Jews or Unitarians, but very open-minded people, usually halfway up the mountain, you know, in some benign, beautiful environment. You sit together for a week, and there’s just lovely surroundings, and you walk out, “Yeah. Yeah, he’s a good guy. He’s a good guy.” It’s terrific.

Then you get down to street level. It disappears faster than the sun does in England. I mean, it’s high level, and it doesn’t really deliver. Therefore, I wrote a book about this called The Home We Build Together, and I used two phrases based, I have to say, on the typology of the Rav in The Lonely Man of Faith, which I called “face-to-face” and “side-by-side”.

Interfaith is face-to-face. We are both talking about what we believe, but side-by-side is Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs working together to solve at street level some problem that all those communities face in common. It may be graffiti on the walls. It may be drug dealers on the streets. We do this in England, we have a Mitzvah day in which not only Jews but Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs all take part. One year I’ll be painting the walls of the hospice because they couldn’t afford decorators. (Mind you, after they saw my results they probably decided to raise money for the real thing anyway.) At any rate, we are side-by-side and what comes out of that? Friendship, and sometimes friendship is what you need. Not theological agreement. Simple friendship. So, I am in favour of interfaith activity through social action. Side-by-side is more powerful than face by face.