Sharansky donates $1 million Genesis Prize to alleviate COVID-19 suffering

'Natan felt strongly that the most positive impact he could have as the Genesis Prize Laureate is to donate his $1 million prize to organizations combating coronavirus.'

Natan Sharansky (photo credit: Courtesy)
Natan Sharansky
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Genesis Prize Foundation (GPF) today announced the names of the 15 recipients of this year’s Genesis Prize grants.  The majority of the funding for the grants came from the $1 million Genesis Prize, which was awarded to human rights activist Natan Sharansky this past December. Sharansky chose to direct these funds to organizations fighting the coronavirus pandemic and supporting individuals most affected by it. 
“The selection of Natan Sharansky as the 2020 Genesis Prize Laureate coincided with the beginning of the worst pandemic faced by humanity in the past one hundred years,” said Stan Polovets, Co-Founder and Chairman of The Genesis Prize Foundation. “Natan felt strongly that the most positive impact he could have as the Genesis Prize Laureate is to donate his $1 million prize to organizations combating coronavirus and helping individuals most impacted by this vicious, invisible enemy.”
“I am grateful to have the opportunity to contribute to this humanitarian effort,” said Natan Sharansky. “Throughout the long history of the Jewish people, our ability to come together as one during the times of crisis gave us strength to persevere and face the future with hope and confidence. I cannot think of a better way to use the Genesis Prize money than to fund those who are fighting the coronavirus epidemic, both in Israel and around the world.”
Some of the grants will deliver immediate relief to those most affected; others will seed longer-term advances against the disease.  The former group includes Israeli organization 1221 Assistance for All – an emergency support service for residents of Jerusalem; ALEH Negev, working with children with severe disabilities; Association of Rape Crisis Centers of Israel, responding to a 40% increase in domestic violence cases; Hillel and Moishe House, supporting isolated elderly in Europe and the Former Soviet Union.
Among the projects with a longer-term focus are grants to Israel’s Weizmann Institute to develop a coronavirus vaccine, and to two leading US universities, Columbia and New York University (NYU). The Columbia University grant provides seed funds for researchers to develop new treatments, while the grant to NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering funds a competition for students to address the engineering challenges presented by the coronavirus, including creating “zero contact” hardware, such as doors and payment systems.
Morris Kahn, a prominent Israeli philanthropist who contributed additional funds in honor of Natan Sharansky, said: “Mr. Sharansky is an example of a true believer in life and the bounty of life, and his decision to support these important organizations is the core of the Jewish values – to be compassionate and help ease the pain of others.”
Isaac Herzog, Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel and Chairman of the Genesis Prize Selection Committee, said: “I admire Natan’s decision to donate his award in this hour of profound need. The range of projects selected for Genesis Prize grants is strategic, comprehensive and addresses the need for immediate humanitarian relief as well as preparedness for the challenges of tomorrow.  The Jewish Agency is honored to partner with Natan and the Genesis Prize in this 2020 philanthropic program.”   
In addition to the fifteen grants, Genesis announced a special competition in honor of Sharansky, which will recognize Israeli companies working to combat COVID-19 and mitigate the damage from future pandemics. Start-Up Nation Central, an NGO founded by philanthropist Paul Singer, will run the competition in partnership with GPF to promote Israeli innovation globally.