Howard Jacobson and Rabbi Blue win religious broadcasting prizes

Novelist Howard Jacobson scooped a top religious broadcasting award on Tuesday for his personal exploration of Genesis, shown on Channel 4 earlier this year.

The programme - the first in a seven-part series about the Bible - won the premier prize for TV in the Sandford St Martin Trust awards at Lambeth Palace in London.

Roger Bolton, the presenter of Radio Four's programme, Sunday, who chaired the judges, said: "What was surprising was his profound emotional engagement, and the openness with which he was prepared to reveal his own spiritual longings. It was almost impossible to watch this programme and not re-read Genesis in a fuller and richer way."

Mr Jacobson commented: "I was saying a few things as a writer that I think are important to say. But the truth of it was that as we came towards the end of the filming, I thought, I am feeling things that I had not felt before."

A lifetime achievement award was also made to the veteran Thought for the Day presenter Rabbi Lionel Blue.

The Right Reverend Nick Baines said: "Curiosity is the key to the kingdom of God and Lionel is a great exponent of what it is that makes people curious."

Rabbi Blue, who was unable to be present, recalled in a video how at the time of his first broadcast, 35 years ago, he had consulted an elderly rabbi about what to say. "Tell zem about ze Jewish problem," he had been told.

But reflecting on the difficult economic conditions of the time faced by his listeners, he felt that there were enough problems around without "landing them with the Jewish problem as well".

He said: "I remember praying about it. God said to me, don't get big ideas about yourself. You've got to help people out of bed on a cold, difficult Monday morning in winter and give them a thought which will help them not to dive back under the duvet. It's that simple."

Also shortlisted was a BBC 4 Sunday Worship programme marking the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz which featured a contribution from Ed Kessler, director of the Woolf Institute for Abrahamic Faiths, Cambridge.

The judging panel for the radio award was chaired by Rabbi Roderick Young, formerly of Finchley Reform Synagogue.

Last updated: 11:21am, October 12 2010