Prime Minister's Office exits Genesis Prize partnership

Move done to stop interpretation that PMO role brings political dimension to prize

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Stan Polovets and Mike Bloomberg (photo credit: COURTESY OF GENESIS PRIZE)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Stan Polovets and Mike Bloomberg
The Genesis Prize – a prestigious Jewish award frequently referred to as the “Jewish Nobel” – has parted ways from the Prime Minister’s Office which will no longer be part of the administration of the prize.
Established in 2013, the Genesis Prize was set up as a private-public partnership between The Genesis Prize Foundation (GPF), the Office of the Prime Minister of Israel (PMO), and The Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI). The private GPF finances the Prize through a $100 million endowment.
According to a joint statement by the three parties, the decision to split was made to prevent criticism by people who viewed the PMO’s participation in the prize as political.
"Since awarding the inaugural Genesis Prize to Michael Bloomberg in 2014, the partnership among our three organizations has resulted in the creation of one of the most prestigious awards in the Jewish world,” the founding organizations said in a joint statement.
Genesis works to bring Israel and global Jewry closer together, while the recipients of the Prize have contributed tens of millions of dollars to important philanthropic causes in Israel and in the Diaspora. During this time, we have also seen that, despite the efforts of the partners to create a non-political award that unites the Jewish people, some have incorrectly interpreted the participation of the Office of the Prime Minister in the Genesis Prize as bringing a political dimension to this important initiative,” the statement continued.
In 2018, for example, actress Natalie Portman refused to come to Israel to receive the award.
The founding organizations said that this perception was “opposite of what the founders of the Prize intended” and that “in order to make it perfectly clear that this award transcends politics, the three partners collectively have decided that the PMO would exercise the option contained in the founding documents and withdraw from the partnership.”
Instead, the prize will continue to be administered by Genesis and the Jewish Agency.
Prime Minister Netanyahu thanked Michael Fridman, Stan Polovets and the other co-founders of the Genesis Prize Foundation for conceiving and launching the project.
“The Prime Minister remains a strong supporter of the Prize and will continue to follow its progress and GPF's philanthropic impact with great interest,” the statement read.
Stan Polovets, Co-Founder and Chairman of GPF, expressed the partners’ gratitude to Netanyahu for his “invaluable support of the Genesis Prize since inception,” adding that “together, we created a Prize for all Jewish people, a non-political award that celebrates world-renowned Jewish achievement and the miracle of Israel.” 
Separately, the prize announced a modification of the laureate nomination process designed to widen participation of the Jewish community. During the first five years of the Prize, about 2,000 senior leaders from the fields of philanthropy, academia, public service, business and Jewish communal life had been invited to nominate laureates. In 2019, more than 90,000 people were invited to nominate, culminating in the selection of Natan Sharansky as the 2020 Genesis Prize laureate.
For next year's nominations, the prize will further expand engagement, opening the process to an even wider Jewish audience in Israel and throughout the world.
Genesis Prize Laureates to date have included former New York City Mayor and current US presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg; actor Michael Douglas; violinist Itzhak Perlman; sculptor Anish Kapoor; actress Natalie Portman; owner of the New England Patriots Robert Kraft; and Natan Sharansky.
In 2018, The Genesis Prize Foundation also honored US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with its inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award.