New $1 million ‘Jewish Nobel Prize’ established

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The establishment of the Genesis Prize, which is being touted as a "Jewish Nobel Prize" and worth $1 million, was announced.

The international prize was announced Tuesday in a statement from the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that included Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky and Genesis Philanthropy Group founder Mikhail Fridman.

The prize will be awarded to Jews who win global recognition for their professional achievements, including in the world of science and the arts.

Tthe Genesis Philanthropy Group, which is comprised of several oligarchs from the former Soviet Union who are committed to building the Russian-speaking Jewish Diaspora, will fund the prize. Israel’s prime minister will award the prize at an annual ceremony to be held near Passover.

A selection committee made up of retired judges and Diaspora Jewish community leaders, as well as representatives from the Prime Minister’s Office and the Genesis group, will choose the winner in a multi-stage process.

"The Genesis Prize emphasizes the contribution of the Jews to world history," Fridman said in the statement. "Far-reaching achievements in science, the arts, business, medicine, diplomacy and other fields of human endeavor have been realized thanks to the Jewish people’s natural aspiration to improve the world, and to its desire to pass its moral values on to coming generations. This tradition of the Jewish People must continue."

Stan Polovets, the CEO and co-founder of Genesis, said that Fridman first came up with the idea for the prize, which in turn was developed during the past three years in partnership with Sharansky, Netanyahu and the prime minister’s staff.

“Our foundation and the Jewish Agency under Natan Sharansky are focusing on ensuring that the next generation of Jews grows up with a strong sense of Jewish identity and Jewish values,” Polovets said. By recognizing the achievements and accomplishments of Jews worldwide, he added, the Genesis Group hopes to inspire younger Jews to embrace “the idea of belonging to the Jewish People and strengthening their sense of Jewish identity.”

Polovets downplayed the Russian background of the businessmen-philanthropists behind Genesis, noting that some of them now claim citizenship and conduct their affairs in various countries.

“We consider ourselves as global citizens and see [the need to fight assimilation] as a global issue for the Jewish People,” Polovets said.

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