Stan Polovets, Co-Founder, Chairman and CEO of the Genesis Prize Foundation poses with artist Anish Kapoor.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
British-Indian artist Anish Kapoor donated $1 million on Wednesday to five charities that are working with refugees worldwide in a bid to alleviate a record-breaking global displacement crisis.
Kapoor, who was born to an Indian father and Iraqi Jewish mother, last year won the Genesis Prize – dubbed the “Jewish Nobel” – for his commitment to Jewish values.
“Like many Jews, I do not have to go far back in my family history to find people who were refugees,” he said in a statement.
“Directing Genesis Prize funds to this cause is a way of helping people who, like my forebears not too long before them, are fleeing persecution.”
The world is currently witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record – surpassing numbers seen after the Second World War more than 70 years ago – with over 65 million people forced to flee their homes, according to the United Nations.
UN efforts to reach agreement on a voluntary pact for safe, orderly and regular migration of refugees suffered a setback in December, when the United States quit the negotiations.
“In recent months, awareness of the plight faced by tens of millions of refugees and displaced persons worldwide has fallen significantly while the refugee crisis continues unabated,” said Kapoor, a longtime social activist.
Kapoor lived in Israel briefly before settling in Britain in the 1970s. He was one of the winners of the Turner Prize in 1991 and created a Holocaust memorial for the London Liberal Synagogue.
Winners of the Genesis Prize get to award one million dollars to organizations of their choice, with the aim of inspiring the next generation of Jews.
One of Kapoor’s grantees is the International Rescue Committee, which is working with refugees in Uganda – home to more than a million people who have fled war in South Sudan – and with stateless Rohingya in Myanmar.
The Genesis Prize remains deeply committed to this cause. Just last year, businessman and philanthropist Morris Khan joined forces with the organization to donate funds to Safed’s Ziv Medical Center to contribute the hospital’s hearing restoration program for Syrian children.
According to Hillel International director Eric Fingerhut, the grant will enable students from around the US to expand their efforts to provide aid to thousands of refugees from the Syrian conflict.
“Through this gift, students at campus Hillels across the country will gather not just to assemble care packages, but to show thousands of Syrian refugees a collective act of kindness and humanity in the midst of crisis and despair. In doing so, our students will be contributing to a tradition of pursuing justice as a religious and moral obligation that has been central to Hillel International’s work for more than 90 years,” Fingerhut said. “We are grateful to the Genesis Prize Foundation and to Anish Kapoor for the opportunity to bring more justice, light and peace to those who need it most.”
Genesis Prize founder Michael Friedman said that Kapoor chose to help “one of the most important humanitarian challenges facing society today that is affecting tens of millions of people around the world.”
Previous winners include former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, violinist Itzhak Perlman and actor Michael Douglas. This year’s fifth recipient of the prize, Oscar-winning actress Natalie Portman, plans to focus her award funds on promoting women’s equality. In July, US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will be the first to receive the Genesis Lifetime Achievement award.
This article appears with the cooperation of The Genesis Prize.