2018 'Jewish Nobel' goes to Natalie Portman

Natalie Portman said she was "deeply touched and humbled" by the honor.

Genesis Prize Laureate Natalie Portman (photo credit: GENESIS PRIZE FOUNDATION)
Genesis Prize Laureate Natalie Portman
Jewish actress, director and social activist Natalie Portman is the winner of the 2018 Genesis Prize, the Genesis Prize Foundation announced on Tuesday.
The annual $1 million award, dubbed “the Jewish Nobel” by Time magazine, honors extraordinary individuals who serve as an inspiration to the next generation of Jews through their outstanding professional achievement and their commitment to Jewish values and to the Jewish people.
The prize selection committee, headed by Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, acknowledged Portman as a globally acclaimed actress and director.
She began her acting career at the age of 12 and has since achieved recognition and praise from audiences across the world. She has won multiple prestigious awards, including an Academy Award (Oscar), two Golden Globe Awards, a British Academy of Film and Television Award, as well as other industry honors.
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Portman also is noted for her social activism in such areas as gender equality, combating poverty, microfinance and animal rights.
Portman was born in Israel and although she moved to the US as a child, she maintains a strong connection to her native country as well as to her Jewish heritage.
In 2015, Portman directed A Tale of Love and Darkness, a Hebrew-language film made in Israel and based on the novel by Israeli writer Amos Oz.
Portman also played a leading role in the film.
Stan Polovets, co-founder and chairman of the Genesis Prize Foundation, said, “Natalie’s charismatic on-screen presence has touched the hearts of millions. Her talent, her commitment to social causes and her deep connection to her Jewish and Israeli roots are greatly admired.
“She exemplifies the core traits of the Jewish character and values of the Jewish people – persistence and hard work, the pursuit of excellence, intellectual curiosity, and a heartfelt desire to contribute to making the world a better place. Without a doubt, she is a role model for millions of young Jews around the world,” he said.
Sharansky said that “it gives me great pleasure to welcome Natalie Portman to the distinguished family of Genesis Prize Laureates – outstanding Jews of our time.
“An example of excellence and dedication to Jewish values, she is an exemplary Genesis Prize Laureate,” he continued. “I express my strong support for her chosen philanthropic cause and wish the new laureate further success in advancing the mission of the Genesis Prize that is so relevant to all of us today.”
Portman said she was “deeply touched and humbled” by the honor.
“It exemplifies the Jewish value of tikkun olam, or ‘mending the world,’” she said. “I am proud of my Israeli roots and my Jewish heritage; they are crucial parts of who I am. It is such a privilege to be counted among the outstanding laureates whom I admire so much.
“I express my heartfelt gratitude to the Genesis Prize Foundation, and look forward to using the global platform it provides to make a difference in the lives of women in Israel and beyond,” she said.
“I am particularly inspired by the opportunity to make an impact on women’s issues in Israel,” added Portman.
“Israel has already achieved much in terms of social and economic development, education and science, and we can all be rightfully proud of it as Jews. And yet, there is much that can be done to advance equal opportunity for women in this society. Increasing women’s participation makes a country stronger and I look forward to fostering more positive change in this area,” the actress explained.
In keeping with the tradition established by the previous Genesis Prize Laureates, $1 million in award money will be granted to philanthropic programs in honor of Natalie Portman.
The programs will focus on advancing women’s equality in all aspects of human endeavor. In particular, funds will be used for grants to organizations involved in promoting women’s educational opportunities, economic advancement, health and safety, and full participation in policy formulation and political activity.
A significant portion of the money will be channeled to programs advancing women’s equality in Israel.
Portman is the fifth winner of the annual prize.
This year’s laureate was Sir Anish Kapoor, a prominent British sculptor and a champion of Syrian refugee rights.
Previous laureates were former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg (2014), actor and peace activist Michael Douglas (2015), and virtuoso violinist and advocate for people with disabilities Itzhak Perlman (2016).
Portman will receive the award at a ceremony in Jerusalem in June.