An Institute of Hope

The Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks Institute at Bar-Ilan University

Rabbi Sacks was one of the world’s leading intellectual public figures.

There have been many great rabbinical thinkers. What is exceptional about Rabbi Sacks is that he developed a body of thought deeply grounded in Jewish religious tradition that speaks to the most important contemporary social, political and moral issues for Jews and non-Jews alike.

For Jews, but also for many people of other faiths, he was looked to as the foremost moral thinker of our age. Bar-Ilan has a deep, enduring and unique bond with Rabbi Sacks. He was a member of Bar- Ilan’s Board, a recipient of an honorary doctorate and a regular speaker at the university. Just this year, Bar-Ilan staged an international conference dedicated to Rabbi Sacks. The spirt that runs through Rabbi Sacks’ work inspired the founders of Bar-Ilan’s Political Studies department. This same spirit continues to drive the department today.

Today, Israel’s democracy is under threat.

Nationalism, fundamentalism and racism are outpacing liberalism, moderation, and respect for minorities. Rabbi Sacks was deeply concerned with the threat to a free democratic society posed by rampant individualism on the one hand and religious extremism on the other. He argued that our ability to overcome these challenges depends on a civic culture that engages in debate with mutual respect and a moral ecology that provides hope and builds connections and trust between different communities.

Although Rabbi Sacks is less well known in Israel than in the English-speaking world, he offers a crucial perspective − a Jewish solution to the many problems posed by the “Clash of Civilizations” − that is sorely needed in Israel today. A major objective of the new institute is to ensure Rabbi Sacks’ ideas become at least as influential in the Jewish homeland as they are outside of it, helping strengthen Israeli democracy.

Institute Objectives

The Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks Institute has two core aims:

  • To ensure Rabbi Sacks’ ideas receive the attention and recognition they deserve within academia, helping address many of the moral, social and political challenges faced in Israel and around the world.
  • To create new leaders through a diverse network of alumni who will make a meaningful impact on the future of Israeli, Jewish and world society, inspired and guided by Rabbi Sacks’ vision.

Support The Sacks Institute

Raised So Far

$35,000

Our Goal

$50,000

Impact

By donating to Canadian Friends of Bar-Ilan University, your support for the Jonathan Sacks Institute will:

  • Introduce over 400 students a year to the life and works of Rabbi Sacks, inspiring them, as Israel’s future leaders and innovators, to strengthen Israeli democracy
  • Bring together Israeli Arab and Haredi students to discuss, debate and find common ground through Rabbi Sacks’ ideas and beliefs
  • Ensure Rabbi Sacks’ ideas receive the attention and recognition they deserve within academia in Israel and around the world
  • Establish an alumni network of Israeli graduates inspired by Rabbi Sacks’ vision and values to make a positive change to Israeli politics and society
  • Raise awareness of Rabbi Sacks in Israel, ensuring his ideas become at least as influential in the Jewish homeland as they are outside of it

Core Courses

At any one time, over 20,000 students are studying at Bar-Ilan. All these students must take several basic courses in Jewish Studies. The Institute will create a set of new core courses grounded in Rabbi Sacks’ writings. This will enable his ideas to gain widespread exposure across the university, and reach students who may not be familiar with Rabbi Sacks or his work.

One such course will be directly focused on Rabbi Sacks’ writings. The other courses will relate to topics and issues that were central to his work. In each case, a significant part of the syllabus will include his writings on the subject. Some courses can be tailored to students in specific faculties; for example, a course on science and religion can be anchored by Rabbi Sacks’ book ‘The Great Partnership’ while also including other authors who have written on the topic from Jewish and general perspectives, such as Prof. Nathan Aviezer from the Bar-Ilan’s Department of Physics.

We estimate that around 400 students a year would take these courses. Furthermore, versions of these courses could be made available online for free in English and Hebrew, enabling us to reach an even wider audience.