Exploring The Genesis Prize Foundation’s Vision for a Vibrant Future

Image Credits: Genesis Prize

The Genesis Prize Foundation is a symbol of innovation and strategic giving in the global philanthropic community. Established with a profound commitment to Jewish values, the Genesis Prize harnesses the achievements of prominent Jewish individuals to inspire acts of generosity and communal involvement. The Foundation's vision and collaboration with other Jewish organizations support a strong future for Jews worldwide.

Called the "Jewish Nobel Prize" by Time magazine, the Genesis Prize symbolizes unity and inspiration, encouraging Jews to connect to their heritage and Israel. It was established in 2013 with an ambitious vision to enhance Jewish identity and support “tikkun olam” — repair of the world. Unlike most other awards, the Genesis Prize celebrates Jewish talent and achievement and encourages a commitment to philanthropic endeavors.

The Foundation aims to elevate role models who inspire pride among future generations of Jews.

What distinguishes the Genesis Prize? It uniquely awards an annual $1 million to a laureate who forgoes the funds, which are then donated in their honor to nonprofits, often leveraging the initial funds with additional matching donations. This innovative, inclusive approach enables the Genesis Prize and its recipients to address urgent philanthropic needs effectively and attract global attention.

Over the past decade, the Genesis Prize has channeled over $50 million into charitable causes, supporting over 200 organizations.

Genesis Prize’s Dynamic Leader: Stan Polovets

Stan Polovets, co-founder and CEO of The Genesis Prize Foundation, embodies the visionary leadership driving the foundation’s initiatives. With a background in business and philanthropy, Polovets has been instrumental in steering the Genesis Prize’s mission toward impactful philanthropic engagement. His tenure as a philanthropic executive and his pivotal roles in global business, including leadership positions in the energy sector and biopharmaceuticals, have equipped him with unique insights that inform the prize’s strategic direction.

Celebrating a Decade of Distinguished Laureates

The nomination process for the Genesis Prize honoree has evolved. Before 2020, the process was internal: The Foundation collected nominations from over 1,000 Jewish leaders globally. These nominations were then narrowed down to fit the prize's criteria. A selection committee reviewed this short list, ranked the candidates, and forwarded their recommendations to the prize committee, which made the final decision.

Starting in 2020 and continuing through 2021, the process opened to include the public. The Foundation used social media ads and emails to solicit nominations directly from the public. The candidates who received the most nominations were then highlighted on social media and through emails, with the public voting for their preferred nominee.

The Genesis Prize laureates are a diverse group whose achievements underscore the rich tapestry of Jewish contributions across various fields. Honorees have also been recognized for lifetime achievement and humanitarian work.

Michael Bloomberg, the inaugural laureate in 2014, used his award to support innovative projects that tackle pressing social issues. “We aspire for the Genesis Prize to have the same level of recognition and prestige as the leading prizes of the world, such as the Nobels, the Pulitzers, and the MacArthur Awards. With Mayor Bloomberg as our inaugural laureate, we are well on our way to achieving this objective," said Stan Polovets.

Bloomberg said, “Many years ago, my parents instilled in me Jewish values and ethics that I have carried with me throughout my life and which have guided every aspect of my work in business, government, and philanthropy.

The Genesis Prize embraces and promotes those same values and ethics — a common thread among the Jewish people worldwide that has helped move humankind forward for centuries.”

Following him, actor Michael Douglas brought attention to inclusivity within the Jewish community, particularly among interfaith families, in 2015.

Violin virtuoso Itzhak Perlman, awarded in 2016, directed his prize toward breaking down barriers faced by people with disabilities, reinforcing the Jewish commitment to accessibility and equality. In 2017, renowned artist Anish Kapoor used his award to assist Syrian refugees, highlighting the Jewish imperative to aid the stranger and those in need.

In 2018, actress Natalie Portman and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg were recognized. Portman focused on women's rights, and Ginsburg celebrated with a Lifetime Achievement Award for her lifelong dedication to justice and equality. Robert Kraft, the 2019 laureate, channeled his prize toward combating antisemitism.

The 2020 laureate, Natan Sharansky, a former Soviet prisoner of conscience, exemplified the struggle for freedom and human rights, resonating deeply with Jewish historical experiences of oppression. Sharansky decided to donate his $1 million Prize award to combat the Coronavirus pandemic, considering it the most urgent issue of the year. He believes that highlighting the role of Israeli technology can significantly contribute to addressing this global challenge.

Sharansky partnered with the Genesis Prize Foundation and Start-Up Nation Central (SNC), an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to bolstering the Israeli high-tech industry. SNC aims to showcase the capabilities of Israeli technology and foster collaboration between businesses and the technological ecosystem in Israel. To achieve this goal, SNC collaborates with various entities such as business organizations, venture capital firms, investors, and government ministries worldwide.

The 2021 winner, film director Steven Spielberg, has focused on fighting intolerance in all its forms. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, honored in 2022, played a pivotal role in developing a COVID-19 vaccine, marking a significant contribution to global health during a critical time. Dr. Bourla requested The Genesis Prize Foundation to allocate his $1 million prize award to projects focused on preserving the memory of Holocaust victims, with a special focus on the suffering endured by the Greek Jewish community.

In 2023, Barbra Streisand, the famous actor, singer, author, director, and activist, became the 10th anniversary Genesis Prize laureate for her artistic achievements and commitment to speaking out against injustice throughout her career. Streisand requested The Genesis Prize Foundation distribute her prize funds to nonprofit organizations working in four areas: protecting the environment, promoting women’s health, combating disinformation in the media, and supporting the people of Ukraine.

Also in 2023, the foundation recognized organizations and activists that support victims of the war in Ukraine and allocated its funds to those organizations, reflecting its commitment to current and urgent causes affecting human lives across the globe. Most recently, the award focused on aiding organizations supporting hostages held by Hamas in Gaza, demonstrating the Genesis Prize’s responsiveness to evolving global crises. By bringing attention to this issue, coordinating with other Jewish organizations, and working with hostage organizations, the foundation unites as a community and supports the fight for freedom and justice.

As The Genesis Prize Foundation continues to evolve, its role in shaping the future of Jewish philanthropy remains clear. Under the guidance of visionaries like Stan Polovets, the foundation is poised to keep addressing the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead, inspiring a new generation to embrace their heritage with pride and engage in philanthropic endeavors that benefit the broader world.

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