Dan Shechter is awarded the Nobel Prize 311.
(photo credit: Channel 10)
A Jewish foundation on Tuesday announced the creation of an annual award with a
one million dollar cash prize that will be bestowed upon a personality with
strong ties to the Jewish people for achievements in the fields of art, science
The Genesis Philanthropy Group, headed by Russian- Jewish
businessmen including billionaires Mikhail Fridman, Pyotr Aven and German Khan,
among others, said the Genesis Prize, which has been likened to a “Jewish Nobel
Prize,” would help strengthen ties between Israel and the Diaspora.
Genesis Prize emphasizes the contribution of the Jews to world history,” Fridman
was quoted as saying in a press release. “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.”
The announcement was made
during a meeting in Jerusalem between Fridman, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
and Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky.
The $1m. award would put the
new accolade on par with the Noble Prize, which comes with a $1.1m.
So far about 20 percent of Nobel Prize laureates have been Jewish, a staggering
number considering Jews make up about 0.2% of the world’s
Jewish recipients of the Noble Prize include the likes of
physicist Albert Einstein; author Shai Agnon; and slain prime minister Yitzhak
Rabin and President Shimon Peres, who received the award
Honorees for the Genesis Prize will be chosen by two committees
composed of retired judges, Diaspora Jewish community leaders, government
officials, Genesis Philanthropy Group representatives and Sharansky in his
capacity as Jewish Agency head.
“There are two important things here
beside the considerable cash sum,” Sharansky told The Jerusalem Post over the
phone. “The recipient will be someone who has done something important for
humanity in the fields of science, arts, diplomacy and so on. At the same time
the person will be a proud Jew with strong ties to the community and Judaism.
Why is this important? We need role models, we need people that contribute to
Sharansky avowed for the transparency of the selection process,
saying the most likely candidate would be one who is Jewish and is involved in
Jewish activity. At the same time, the former Soviet Refusenik added non-Jews
who have contributed in a significant way to to Jewish civilization might also
The sizable endowment made by Fridman, Aven and Khan – who
are also partners in the Alfa Group, a corporate giant with holdings in many
different interests – as well as others, ensures it will be given in perpetuity,
the Genesis Philanthropy Group told the Post. Fridman, whose net worth was
estimated at $13.4 billion in 2012, making him the seventh richest man in
Russia, was part of a group of Russian Jewish businessmen who came to Israel
earlier this week to accompany Russian President Vladimir Putin on his
Stan Polovets, CEO of Genesis Philanthropy Group, said he hoped
the first winner of the prize would be announced before Passover next year but
that it “will depend on how quickly the project will get staffed, nomination and
selection committees start functioning, etc.”
Netanyahu congratulated the
charity’s decision, calling the prize a symbol of the “Jews’ great contribution
in human development.”
“The Jewish People has developed excellence over
the years due thanks to its values and heritage,” Netanyahu said. “This is an
important step for the cohesion of our people and symbolizes its unity around
Sharansky said he could think of many potential nominees
for the award, but that who he had in mind was premature.
“There are some
Jews I would like to win, but how can we start playing with the names now – it’s
too early,” he said.