New York, April 19, 2018 - Natalie Portman will not travel to Israel in June to receive the Genesis Prize, dubbed by Time Magazine as “The Jewish Nobel.” The Genesis Prize Foundation (GPF) was notified by a representative of Ms. Portman that “Recent events in Israel have been extremely distressing to her and she does not feel comfortable participating in any public events in Israel” and that “she cannot in good conscience move forward with the ceremony.”
As a result of Ms. Portman’s decision, the Foundation had no choice but to cancel the Genesis Prize Ceremony, originally scheduled for June 28, 2018.
In November, Ms. Portman was announced as the 2018 Genesis Prize Laureate and committed to “re-gift” the $1 million in prize money to philanthropic programs focused on advancing women’s equality in all aspects of human endeavor. In addition to honoring Ms. Portman, the ceremony in Jerusalem was intended to highlight the work of women’s rights NGOs working on women’s equality and empowerment issues.
The Genesis Prize Foundation said: “Ms. Portman is a highly accomplished actress, a committed social activist and a wonderful human being. The staff of the Foundation enjoyed getting to know her over the past six months, admires her humanity, and respects her right to publicly disagree with the policies of the government of Israel. However, we are very saddened that she has decided not to attend the Genesis Prize Ceremony in Jerusalem for political reasons. We fear that Ms. Portman’s decision will cause our philanthropic initiative to be politicized, something we have worked hard for the past five years to avoid.”
“The mission of the Genesis Prize is to create a space where we can cast politics aside and come together to appreciate Jewish accomplishments that continue to contribute so much to human civilization; to contemplate Jewish identity and values and what they mean in the 21st century; to strengthen the bond between the State of Israel and the Jewish Diaspora; and to celebrate pride in being Jewish, and – especially in this 70th anniversary year - in the State of Israel. We are disappointed that this year we will not be able to fulfill this mission in full.”
“We extend our apologies to everyone who has been affected by this decision, particularly to the hundreds of international guests who made plans to fly to Jerusalem to honor Ms. Portman and celebrate the contribution of Jewish women to humanity, the main theme of this year’s ceremony. The Genesis Prize Foundation remains committed to making grants to advance the cause of women’s equality.”
The Genesis Prize honors extraordinary individuals who serve as an inspiration to the next generation of Jews through their outstanding professional achievement and commitment to the Jewish people and Jewish values, such as social justice, tolerance and charity. Laureates of the Genesis Prize include Michael R. Bloomberg (2014), Michael Douglas (2015), Itzhak Perlman (2016), and Anish Kapoor (2017). In November 2017, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was selected as the inaugural recipient of the Genesis Lifetime Achievement Award.
Over the past four years, in honor of its Laureates, GPF and its partners have contributed over $10 million to important philanthropic initiatives, including a competition to encourage social entrepreneurship, matching grants programs to welcome intermarried families and those with disabilities into the Jewish community, and most recently, lend a helping hand to thousands of refugees. GPF remains committed to this most important work and is enthusiastic about launching this year’s “re-gifting” program to advance the cause of women’s equality. GPF plans to announce initial grants related to this theme this spring.
The Genesis Prize is a global award created to celebrate Jewish achievement and contribution to humanity. Launched in 2013, the Prize is financed through a permanent endowment of $100 million established by the Genesis Prize Foundation. All previous laureates have selected causes about which they are passionate. Award funds in their honor have been donated to these causes, which included support of social entrepreneurship based on Jewish values, inclusiveness of intermarried families in Jewish life, improving the lives of individuals with special needs, and helping to alleviate the global refugee crisis. Laureates have engaged in yearlong related initiatives developed jointly with the Genesis Prize Foundation.
Previous Genesis Prize Laureates and Their “Re-gifting” Initiatives
The inaugural Genesis Prize Laureate, Michael R. Bloomberg, directed his 2014 award to fund the Genesis Generation Challenge, a competition to support young social entrepreneurs. Nine winning teams received funding to execute projects modeled on the value of tikkun olam, such as the development of technology that allowed quadriplegics to remain in touch with the world.
2015 Genesis Prize Laureate, actor, director and peace activist Michael Douglas directed his $1 million award, as well as an additional $1 million provided by philanthropist Roman Abramovich, to initiatives that aimed to include intermarried families in Jewish life. A matching grants program resulted in $3.3 million being distributed to 27 grantees, enabling a significant infusion of funding into this relatively new area of philanthropy.
2016 Genesis Prize Laureate, virtuoso violinist and advocate for people with disabilities Itzhak Perlman launched “Breaking Barriers,” an initiative to improve access to high-quality cultural events and education for people with disabilities. The matching grants program funded dozens of specialized organizations in North America, Europe, and Israel that work to integrate people with disabilities in cultural life.
2017 Genesis Prize Laureate, world-renowned artist and human rights activist Anish Kapoor pledged his $1 million to organizations that help alleviate the Syrian refugee crisis. Six organizations in North America, the United Kingdom and Israel received grants to implement projects ranging from sending needed medical supplies to Syrian refugees, to providing for winterization in refugee camps in Europe, to developing mobile applications that provide needed information and data to refugees.
United States and Europe: