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Sir Sigmund Sternberg, philanthropist, renowned interfaith campaigner and co-founder of 3FF, has passed away at age 95.
A true giant of the interfaith movement, Sir Sigmund spent most of his life building better relations between people of different faiths and beliefs.
He founded 3FF, the Three Faiths Forum, together with Revd Dr Marcus Braybrooke and the late Sheikh Dr Zaki Badawi in 1997. The founding of 3FF was only one of his many achievements in the field, which include strengthening the Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ), helping to form the International CCJ (ICCJ), and working to better Catholic-Jewish relations.
Born 2 June 1921 in Hungary, Sigmund Sternberg relocated to Britain in 1939, on the eve of the Second World War. He started trading in metal and built up a company so successful that he was able to sell most of his business interests in 1965 and devote his time to charitable interests. He formed the Sternberg Foundation in 1968, joined the ICCJ in 1979, and founded the Sternberg Centre for Judaism, then Europe’s largest Jewish cultural centre, in 1981. He became President of the Movement for Reform Judaism in 1997.
He worked tirelessly to resolve conflicts within and between religions both in the UK and internationally. One of his most notable achievements was successfully finding a peaceful solution to a conflict over a Catholic convent set up in the grounds of Auschwitz in 1984. He also organised the very first papal visit to a synagogue in 1986.
Sir Sigmund received numerous awards and honours for his work, including a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II, a Papal knighthood from Pope John Paul II, and the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion.
When receiving the Templeton Prize in 1998, Sir Sigmund said: “I am really a simple soul, a businessman, who, in a modest way, has been smiled on by fortune and who has tried to repay the blessings which have been bestowed on me by opening to others a sense of the goodness which lies in us all, regardless of our faith.”
3FF Director Phil Champain: “Sir Sigmund will be greatly missed. His legacy lives on in the many initiatives he founded and developed over the years, and not least in the continued work of 3FF. We will continue to strive for the vision he believed in, of a world where people of different beliefs live together in mutual respect and understanding.”
We invite people to share the ways in which Sir Sigmund has touched their lives by emailing us their reflections.
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