michael douglas .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Iconic American actor Michael Douglas, the 2015 Genesis Prize laureate, will be a special guest at the Jerusalem Post Conference in New York on May 22.
He will be interviewed live on stage by outgoing Jerusalem Post editor-in-chief Steve Linde.
Douglas recently joined Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky on a three-campus speaking tour in the US – including visits to Douglas’s alma mater, the University of California at Santa Barbara, plus Stanford University and Brown University – as part of a campaign to counter anti-Semitism and the BDS movement against Israel and to promote inclusion among American Jewish students.
“At a time when the academic community and other forces are making sustained efforts to delegitimize Israel, the campus visits are particularly important and timely,” said Stan Polovets, co-founder and chairman of the Genesis Prize Foundation.
The 71-year-old Douglas – son of famed actor Kirk Douglas, 99, and the late Diana Dill – identifies himself as a Reform Jew. He was presented at a gala ceremony in Jerusalem with the $1 million Genesis Prize award given to individuals who have achieved extraordinary professional success, have made a significant contribution to humanity, and inspire others through their engagement and dedication to the Jewish community and the State of Israel.
In his acceptance speech, he declared: “I am a Jew. Those are four words of pride. My Jewishness is as deep as my genes,” Douglas asked that the $1-million Genesis Prize award, along with an additional million dollars contributed by philanthropist Roman Abramovich, be used to encourage global Jewish organizations to welcome intermarried families and their children, thus encouraging them to engage with their heritage and culture.
“I’m not focusing on the religious front. I’m talking about Jewish values, cultural issues, community and being welcomed,” Douglas told The Jerusalem Post’s Noa Amouyal in an interview last year. “It’s an important issue as a tribe to support those in intermarried families.”
According to a 2013 Pew poll, the inter-marriage rate among American Jews is almost 60 percent and presents a significant demographic challenge.
During his comments at Stanford University, Douglas said he considers receiving the Genesis Prize an opportunity to renew his spirituality.
“This incredible catharsis came over me,” he said. “I’m recognizing the fact that inclusion of intermarried families must be more important than I had ever realized.”
Married to Welsh actress Catherine Zeta-Jones, Douglas’s connection to Judaism was rekindled when his children, Dylan and Carys, took an interest in the religion. The family traveled to Jerusalem two years ago to celebrate Dylan’s bar mitzva and have just celebrated Carys’s bat mitzva.
An op-ed he later wrote for the Los Angeles Times about his son experiencing his first bitter dose of anti-Semitism when he was harassed by a stranger during a trip to Europe went viral.
“I had an awful realization of what might have caused the man’s outrage: Dylan was wearing a Star of David,” he said.
Douglas, the star of a range of box office hits including Romancing the Stone and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, said he hopes that his celebrity would be able to draw attention to the prevalence of global anti-Semitism, asserting that the Jewish people, which is waging an uphill battle against hatred, can use all the help it can get.
Douglas made his film debut in a minor role in the 1966 blockbuster Cast a Giant Shadow about Jewish-American war hero Gen. David “Mickey” Marcus who was killed in 1948 in Israel’s War of Independence.
Marcus was played by Kirk Douglas.
Tickets for the May 22 conference at the Marriott Marquis can be purchased via Jpost.