Britain's Chief Rabbi to Speak on Difference and Democracy in the Post-Secular World

October 1, 2010 — Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, head of the largest synagogue conference in the United Kingdom and an adviser to former British prime ministers Gordon Brown and Tony Blair, will deliver three lectures at the University of Virginia on "Difference and Democracy in the Post-Secular World" in October.

The lectures, free and open to the public (registration requested), will be held in the Rotunda Dome Room on Oct. 11, 12 and 13, at 3 p.m. The lecture series is sponsored by the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences' Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture.

A philosopher, theologian and authority on faith and society, Sacks has played a leading role in advancing interfaith dialogue within pluralist societies. "He is respected in every continent because he has done more than anyone in Britain today to focus our attention on the needs and challenges of community in the global world," Brown has said.

Blair has called him "a towering figure in the intellectual life of Britain today."

Sacks has been chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Commonwealth since 1991. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2005. In 2009, he was made a life peer and took his seat in the House of Lords.

He is a frequent contributor to Britain's leading media, including BBC radio and television. He writes a monthly "Credo" column for The Times of London.

Educated at Cambridge, Oxford and King's College in London, he has been a visiting professor at several universities in Britain, the U.S. and Israel. He is currently a visiting professor of theology at King's College. He holds many honorary degrees, including a doctor of divinity conferred by the Archbishop of Canterbury to mark his first 10 years as chief rabbi.

He has written 20 books, many of which address modern Jewish thought, political theory in the era of globalization, and how faith traditions can flourish in pluralist democratic societies.

His book, "The Dignity of Difference: How to Avoid the Clash of Civilizations" – awarded the 2004 Grawemeyer Prize for Religion – focuses on the key role of religion and religious extremism in world events.

His three lectures are titled "When Rights Become Wrongs," "Losing Civil Space" and "How Civilizations Defeat Decline."

For information, contact Jenny Gladding at 434-924-0998 or

The Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture is an interdisciplinary research center and intellectual community, committed to understanding contemporary cultural change and its individual and social consequences. Over the past 15 years, the institute has organized numerous lectures at which senior scholars, public intellectuals and dignitaries have made major statements on some of the most pressing issues of our time.