Genesis Prize board member resigns amid Robert Kraft prostitution scandal

Rivka Carmi cited frustration and disappointment in the organization's decision to move forward with awarding Kraft the Genesis Prize.

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March 13, 2019 20:56
4 minute read.
Genesis Prize board member resigns amid Robert Kraft prostitution scandal

A picture of Rivka Carmi (Left), and Robert Kraft (Right). (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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Prof. Rivka Carmi, a member of the Genesis Prize advisory board, resigned from her position in protest, after the foundation decided to move forward with giving Robert Kraft this year’s award despite allegations against him of soliciting prostitution.

Kraft is a billionaire and the owner of the New England Patriots American football team.

Carmi told The Jerusalem Post that she did not wish to cause any damage to the Genesis Prize, but that she made a decision consistent with her ethics.

Carmi has been a long-standing advocate for women’s empowerment, and was among the most outspoken supporters of the Genesis Prize’s decision to award Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg the inaugural lifetime achievement award in 2018.

At that time, Carmi told the Post, “Over 70 years of its existence as an independent country, Israel has achieved enormous progress in the field of women’s rights and ensuring equal opportunity for its women.” However, she likewise cautioned that “so much more remains to be done.”

She praised the Genesis Prize Foundation for investing significant financial resources and working to focus public attention on this important area in Israel.

Carmi told the Post that the prize has already undergone enough damage, and she did not want to make matters worse, but “I am supporting women on all levels and all aspects.”

Kraft was awarded the Genesis Prize in early January. However, he has since become one of more than 100 people charged by prosecutors in Florida of paying for sex in a police “sting” operation focused on Asian massage parlors in the state. Kraft denies the allegations against him.

Carmi is a renowned Israeli geneticist and the former president of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. She was the first woman to be appointed the president of an Israeli university. She just stepped down from her position on December 31.

The Genesis Prize, dubbed the “Jewish Nobel” by Time Magazine, honors extraordinary individuals for their outstanding professional achievement, contribution to humanity and commitment to Jewish values and Israel.

Kraft, a 77-year-old Jewish businessman, was charged in a human trafficking investigation in Jupiter, Florida. The local police said there is video evidence of all the men who are being charged.

Kraft and the other defendants charged with first-degree misdemeanors “come from all walks of life,” Dave Aronberg, the state attorney for Palm Beach County, told reporters. Police named Kraft as a client at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, saying they had video of him engaging in paid sex acts with a worker there on two occasions. He pleaded not guilty to the two charges of soliciting prostitution, according to court records.

The Post previously asked Stan Polovets, chairman and co-founder of the Genesis Prize Foundation, to comment on the situation with Kraft and whether the recent events will have any implications for the foundation’s partnership with Kraft.

Polovets reaffirmed that they will not rescind the prize and select a different laureate in light of the allegations.

“Robert was selected for decades of extraordinarily generous philanthropy, his unwavering support of Israel, and unparalleled success in his field of work – professional sports. Israel doesn’t have a better friend than Robert Kraft,” Polovets said. “This makes him a highly deserving laureate, which is why the 12 members of the two committees that choose Genesis Prize laureates selected him unanimously... the incident reported last week is unfortunate. However, as of now, it remains an unproven allegation. Through a spokesman, Robert has categorically denied that he engaged in any illegal activity.”

As of now, the Genesis Prize ceremony will go on as planned, taking place at the Jerusalem Theater on June 20 with Kraft in attendance, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to present him with the Genesis Prize.

Kraft, with a net worth of $6.6 billion, is the 79th-richest American, according to Forbes. He is the chairman and CEO of Kraft Group, a holding company with assets in sports, manufacturing and real estate development. The Patriots, winner of this year’s Super Bowl, are among the most successful franchises in professional sports.

Over decades, the Kraft family has given more than half a billion dollars to causes including healthcare, education, the Jewish community, Christian organizations and local needs.

Kraft has long been a supporter of Israel and has been instrumental in establishing an American football presence in the country by funding the Kraft Stadium in Jerusalem.

“I applaud Robert Kraft’s decision to focus his energies and the Genesis Prize award funds on combating antisemitism, the delegitimization of Israel and racially motivated hate crimes,” said Genesis Prize selection committee head and Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog, before the allegations against Kraft were made. “The rising tide of antisemitism is a threat not only to Jews but to the very fabric of any democratic society where it is allowed to take place.”

Polovets said Kraft is a worthy successor to last year’s Genesis laureate, Ginsburg.

“I cannot think of a more worthy laureate to follow US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whom we honored last July. Like Ginsburg, Kraft has spent most of his life advocating for a more just society, tolerance and inclusiveness. He is one of the world’s most generous philanthropists, whose charitable giving reflects the Jewish value of tikkun olam – repairing the world.”

Alan Rosenbaum, JTA and Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.

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