Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

International religious leader Rabbi Jonathan Sacks presents a vision of hope for the future during virtual event


Jacey West

International religious leader, philosopher and award-winning author Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks spoke to more than 430 people from 13 countries in a virtual discussion on Sept. 10, centered around his latest book, "Morality: Restoring the Common Good in Divided Times."

The inaugural event for “Conversations on Religion, Ethics, and Science (CORES)” for the John Templeton Foundation was moderated by Pauline Davies, Professor of Practice at Hugh Downs School of Human Communication, with an additional discussion led by John Carlson, director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict; Paul Carrese, director of the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership; Paul Davies, director of Beyond: Center for Fundamental Concepts in Sciences; and Hava Tirosh-Samuelson, director of the Center for Jewish Studies

"Morality" explores moral philosophy, public discourse and the elevation of self-interest over the common good. As communities around the world have experienced in the past six months of COVID-19, bringing people together for the common good proves to be more challenging than ever. 

This timely discussion revolved around the cultural and political forces that have divided Britain, America and the wider world, and Sacks’ sincere wish that people develop a "we" versus an "I" mentality.

“We are collectively responsible for the creation of a society that will benefit the common good — benefit those, who right now are least benefiting from it," Sacks said. "That was always a part of British and American society from the 17th century, maybe even earlier, until the 1950s. Somehow we became so affluent, the world around us seemed so relatively free of threats to our peace and security that we didn’t notice as this entire moral domain became fragmented.

"So that instead of thinking about what’s good for all of us, we focused on what’s good for me. I suggested that society can’t carry on like that. We do need to be held together in bonds of mutual responsibility because without it, we will indeed fragment.” 

“I really enjoyed listening to Rabbi Sacks’ webinar,” said Kaitlyn Skamas, a first-year student in the College of Integrative Arts and Sciences. “I thought the talk was going to solely be about Judaism, but to my surprise, he was very inclusive and encouraged the concept of ‘creating friendships through faith.’”

“The biggest takeaway for me was just how truly thirsty our communities are for a civil discussion among people who may disagree about many important things, yet are sincerely interested in healing the rifts in Western society,” said Professor Barry Ritchie from ASU's Department of Physics and the director of CORES. “This honest and yet respectful discussion was a model for the destination we need to seek for discussions within the university and within society.” 

Video of Morality: Restoring the Common Good in Divided Times, A Conversation with Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

You can watch the full conversation with Rabbi Sacks on YouTube

The CORES project is made possible through the support of a grant from the John Templeton Foundation to the Arizona Center for Christian Studies, with a subcontract to Arizona State University.