The Genesis Prize Foundation (GPF) has been associated, directly and indirectly, with two high-profile developments in the last week. On Thursday, Morris Kahn, GPF’s partner for the last two years, dominated the news as the principal funder and the driving force behind Israel's first-ever attempt to land a spacecraft on the moon.Then on Friday, news broke that 2019 Genesis Prize Laureate, Robert Kraft, was one of more than 200 people accused by prosecutors in Florida of paying for sex in a police “sting” operation focused on Asian massage parlors in the state.
The Jerusalem Post asked Stan Polovets, chairman and co-founder of the Genesis Prize Foundation, to comment on the situation with Robert Kraft and whether the recent events will have any implications for the foundation’s partnership with Kahn.
Jerusalem Post: Let’s start with the question that’s on everyone’s mind. Are you going to rescind the prize and select a different laureate in light of the allegations made against Robert Kraft last week?
Stan Polovets: Absolutely not. 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. He first traveled to Israel on his honeymoon with his late wife Myra in 1963 and has been a loyal supporter of the country for over 50 years.
During this time, Robert, his company and his foundation invested tens of millions of dollars in Israel’s economy and society. As one of the most committed Jewish philanthropists in the world, Robert has contributed half a billion dollars to philanthropic causes, including cancer research and treatment, healthcare, education and interfaith relations. 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. And just two months before being chosen as the Genesis Prize Laureate, Robert was honored by the World Jewish Congress and its president Ronald Lauder with a prestigious Theodor Herzl Award.
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. In democratic countries, everyone is entitled to the presumption of innocence and I have no reason to doubt Robert’s word. He has my and my partner’s, Morris Kahn’s, full support.
JP: So you plan to go ahead with the 2019 ceremony in Jerusalem in June and Mr. Kraft will come to Israel as planned?
SP: Yes, the Genesis Prize ceremony will take place on June 20 at the Jerusalem Theater. As we previously announced, Robert will come to Israel the week of June 16 and will be accompanied by a group of current and former NFL players, as was the case on his two prior visits. We are planning a series of events to honor not just Robert, but also the good works of his late wife Myra. I know that the Israel Football League, which Robert helped launch and fund, is also planning an event to honor him.
JP: In the past, you had outstanding hosts for the ceremony: Jay Leno and Helen Mirren. Both are very strong supporters of Israel who spoke out against BDS and efforts to de-legitimize Israel while here. Who will host this year?
SP: The ceremony host this year will be the famous American comedian and actor Martin Short. Martin is one of the top entertainers in the world and is very much looking forward to his visit to Israel. The award ceremony itself is being produced by one of the most prominent Israeli artists, Ran Tsachor. So we expect another terrific event, which will make all participants proud.
JP: Every year, the Genesis Prize Foundation works on a philanthropic theme with the laureate, who re-gifts the million-dollar prize to this theme. When Mr. Kraft was selected, you announced he would work with Genesis on fighting antisemitism and efforts to de-legitimize the State of Israel. Will the Genesis Prize Foundation continue to focus on this theme?
SP: Absolutely. In just the past few months, the need to fight antisemitism has become even more relevant, timely and important. This will be our focus in 2019 and the early part of 2020.
JP: Can Mr. Kraft still be an effective ambassador for the Genesis Prize and the Jewish people in a fight against antisemitism, BDS and efforts to delegitimize Israel?
SP: Robert has been in the forefront of fighting racism and all forms of hate for many years. He has dedicated a lot of his time, energy and money to this cause. For example, even before being selected as the Genesis Prize laureate, Robert announced a “Game for Change,” at which the Chelsea Football Club will travel from UK to the United States this spring to take on Robert’s soccer team, New England Revolution. Robert will donate $1 million of his own money – in addition to all proceeds from ticket sales at the game and the $1 million Genesis Prize – to organizations fighting antisemitism and all forms of hate.
So the answer to your question is a definite “yes.” He can and will be an effective ambassador for Genesis and the State of Israel.
JP: Another person in the news last week was Morris Kahn, a leading Israeli philanthropist who served as the principal funder and driving force behind the launch of Israel’s Beresheet spacecraft. Morris has been your foundation’s partner for the past two years. Will Mr. Kahn work with you and Mr. Kraft on this year’s initiative?
SP: As you can imagine, Morris has been extremely busy during the past several months helping prepare for Beresheet’s launch. When this spacecraft lands on the moon, it will make Israel only the fourth country to successfully achieve a lunar landing. The leadership, dedication and commitment of Morris and his colleagues made this mission possible. I have always been a great admirer of Morris, and now admire him even more.
It is too early to talk about a partnership between Genesis, Robert and Morris at this time. Morris and Robert know, like and respect each other. Robert was one of the first people to congratulate Morris on the launch of Beresheet, and Morris was one of the first people to congratulate Robert on winning the Genesis Prize. I know that Morris passionately cares about the State of Israel and the philanthropic work we plan to do with Robert to combat efforts to de-legitimize it. While we have not had a discussion with Morris or any other potential partners about joining us this year, we will do so once Robert and Genesis agree on the specific initiatives we plan to undertake and projects we plan to fund. I expect this to happen in the coming two to three months.This article was written in cooperation with the Genesis Prize.