On Monday, 9 May 2016, St Leonards School was honoured to welcome Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks to address their Year 10, Year 11 and Year 12 students. The former Chief Rabbi and 2016 Templeton Prizewinner gave a powerful and thought-provoking talk to our students reminding them that every individual is special and unique, and asking them to consider their values in life and what their purpose should be. The special schools lecture was entitled “Not in God’s Name”, in advance of his Templeton Prize Lecture at the University of St Andrews that same evening.
Using examples from the lives of individuals such as Adam Braun, Millard Fuller and Stephen Carter to illustrate the life changing difference that simple acts of kindness can make, Rabbi Sacks inspired the students to consider how each of them could make a difference as individuals. Adam Braun found his purpose in life and founded ‘Pencils of Promise’, in 2008 a charity which builds schools and increases educational opportunities in the developing world. It has helped over 31,000 students, built 266 schools and has provided 24.3 million education hours. Millard Fuller founded ‘Habitat for Humanity’ over fifty years ago which provides housing for the world’s poorest people).
Lord Sacks emphasised the importance of kindness, and how ‘a simple act of kindness can change somebody’s life’, especially to a stranger. The fascinating talk was then followed by a question and answer session about topical issues which ranged from European border controls, the Israeli government, Jewish theology, the global rise in violence and terrorism and anti-Semitism. Both students and staff found the discussion to be extremely informative and were delighted to have benefitted from the school’s strong links with the university.
The school’s Head of Religious Studies, Mrs Greenwood said “it has been a wonderful privilege for the students to hear from and communicate with such an internationally recognised leader who had worked tirelessly in promoting tolerance, respect of all faiths and inter faith dialogue”.
Lord Sacks was Chief Rabbi for 30 years and is also the longest-serving guest on the BBC’s Thought for the Day programme. He has worked tirelessly to foster good relations and understanding between different faiths, and is due to be awarded the annual Templeton Prize at the end of May. Many thanks to Rabbi Lord Sacks for visiting us and to Prof Eric Priest for arranging such an inspirational afternoon.