David Nirenberg Receives Leopold Lucas Prize

The University of Tübingen’s Faculty of Protestant Theology has announced that the 2024 Leopold Lucas Prize will be awarded to IAS Director and Leon Levy Professor David Nirenberg. The award, which honors the memory of the Jewish rabbi and scholar Leopold Lucas who was murdered at Theresienstadt concentration camp in 1943, is presented to individuals whose academic work has made a major contribution to greater tolerance and better relations between people and nations, and has helped to promote a philosophy of tolerance. Nirenberg will be recognized for his research into the relationship between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in the Middle Ages and the present day.

The award committee described Nirenberg's work as dealing "with the coexistence and opposition of the three religions both in small-scale studies, especially on late medieval Spain and France, and in large-scale overviews spanning epochs. In his publications, he shows that both socially prescribed categories and individual experience contribute to how members of the three religious groups perceive each other.   

He pays particular attention to how the individual's own experience and widespread ideas influence and alter one [an]other. He carefully contextualizes violence between religious groups or individuals in historical terms, explaining its causes and intentions without excusing the violence or dismissing it as irrationality. He works through anti-Judaism in Western thought since antiquity, placing its various manifestations precisely into their respective historical contexts. By rationally explaining phenomena of rejection and violence and placing them in social, political and economic contexts, he also shows ways for religions to coexist peacefully."

In receiving this prize, Nirenberg joins an illustrious group of prior recipients, including many IAS Faculty and Members. Michael Walzer, Professor Emeritus in the School of Social Science, was honored in 1998 and Avishai Margalit, Faculty (2006–11) in the School of Historical Studies, received the award in 2011. Past Members from the School of Historical Studies Peter Schäfer (1993, 1994–96), Angelika Neuwirth (2009), and Moshe Zimmermann (1987–88) won in 2015, 2014, and 2002 respectively.

Nirenberg will be officially presented with the award at a ceremony on May 14, 2024, in the ballroom of the University of Tübingen. At the event, Nirenberg will give a speech on the topic of what theology and history can offer each other when thinking about Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Read more at the University of Tübingen (English press release also available).