Award Recognizes Courage and Commitment to Defense of Religious Liberty
Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik, director of Yeshiva University’s Zahava and Moshael Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought and spiritual leader of the oldest Jewish congregation in the United States, has been named the 2018 Canterbury Medalist for his public defense of religious liberty for people of all faiths. The Canterbury Medal is the highest honor awarded by Becket, a non-profit institution that works for the protection of the free expression of all faiths, mostly through litigation. The Medal recognizes an individual who has demonstrated courage and commitment to defending religious liberty in America and around the world.
Rabbi Dr. Soloveichik works tirelessly to strengthen interfaith relations in America, advocating alongside religious leaders of diverse American faith communities to protect religious education and conscience protections, and to strengthen individual religious identities. He is a strong advocate of cultivating one’s own faith and being an active participant in the public square, emphasizing that “sacrificing the exclusive nature of religious truth in the name of dialogue would help neither Jews nor Christians,” and that “in seeking the moral betterment of man, specific religious beliefs … serve to unite rather than divide us.”
“Religious liberty lies at the very heart of the American idea, and the Becket Fund advances the cause of religious liberty more effectively than any other organization in America,” said Rabbi Dr. Soloveichik. “It is an extraordinary honor to receive the Canterbury Medal, and so humbling to follow the distinguished medalists that the Becket Fund has honored.”
“Yeshiva University is proud of Rabbi Soloveichik’s work in defense of religious liberty, reminding us that tolerance and differences can be a source of deeper, mutual understanding between people of good will throughout the world,” said Dr. Selma Botman, provost and vice president of academic affairs at YU.
“Rabbi Soloveichik is dauntless in his defense of religious liberty and has the courage, tenacity and humility to forge the road ahead,” said Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a 2009 Canterbury Medalist.
A descendant of a long line of renowned Orthodox rabbis, in 2013 Rabbi Dr. Soloveichik was named the spiritual leader of Shearith Israel in New York City, the oldest Jewish congregation in the U.S. He is the 10th minister to serve in that role since the American Revolution. He is also an esteemed scholar of religion, theology and the American Founding, holding a Ph.D. from Princeton University in religion. He lectures globally and writes extensively, publishing in outlets from The Wall Street Journal to The Forward on the history of faith and religious freedom in America; has been featured in the New York Times; and is a sought-after commentator on the Jewish faith in America.
“Rabbi Soloveichik is that rare leader who combines erudition, courage and moral clarity. The religious liberty fight benefits from these powerful gifts,” said Bill Mumma, CEO and board chair of Becket.
The Canterbury Medal draws its name from one of history’s most dramatic religious liberty standoffs, which occurred between Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas à Becket, the organization’s namesake, and King Henry II of England. The annual Canterbury Gala, which honors the award recipient, is a black-tie event held at the Pierre Hotel in New York and is attended by the world’s most distinguished religious leaders and religious liberty advocates. The 2018 Canterbury Medal Gala will take place on May 24. Roger Hertog, president of the Hertog Foundation and chairman of the Tikvah Fund, and Dr. Josephine Templeton, Trustee of the John Templeton Foundation, will serve as co-chairs.
Past recipients include the late Nobel Peace Laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel; Cuban poet and former political prisoner Armando Valladares; Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus; New York Times best-selling author and radio host Eric Metaxas; Harvard Learned Hand Law Professor Mary Ann Glendon; and President Dallin H. Oaks of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.