Winners of Genesis Prize Breaking Barriers program announced

Initiative product of prize winner Itzhak Perlman’s lifelong dedication to advocate for people with disabilities.

(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Twenty-two organizations worldwide will share $3.7 million that consists of the regifting of maestro Itzhak Perlman’s $1 million Genesis Prize awarded to him last year and the Jewish Funders Network’s decision to match that donation.
The Genesis Prize Foundation and the JNF announced the winners of Itzhak Perlman’s Breaking Barriers program, an initiative rewarding Jewish organizations that promote the inclusion of people with disabilities.
“Together with Itzhak Perlman, we aim to improve the lives of tens of thousands of people with disabilities throughout North America, Israel and the FSU,” said Stan Polovets, co-founder and chairman of the Genesis Prize Foundation. “Itzhak’s personal story illustrates humankind’s ability to achieve greatness in the face of adversity. We want to give others an opportunity to achieve their own greatness by enjoying lives filled with dignity, respect and personal fulfillment.”
Advocating for disabilities has been a lifelong passion for the renowned Israeli-American violist, who contracted polio at age four. The organizations selected for grants are Jewish groups dedicated to fostering inclusiveness for people with disabilities. Fifty-four applications were submitted for the competition.
From Hillel International, which will work on college campuses across the United States to advocate for students with disabilities, to the Judith Creed Homes for Adult Independence, which offers housing and support for people with disabilities, Breaking Barriers hopes to improve the quality of life for a group that is oftentimes marginalized or ignored.
Winning organizations are also champions of Perlman’s other love: music education.
“I was honored to receive the Genesis Prize in 2016, and so grateful that the award funds were directed in three critical areas,” Perlman explained. “To organizations that are making sure people with disabilities are included in Jewish life, to provide access for those with disabilities to cultural programs, and to support aspiring musicians pursuing their passion.”
Andrés Spokoiny, president and CEO of the Jewish Funders Network, said the initiative’s importance goes far beyond a monetary bottom line. “The gifts being matched, as well as the whole range of amazing projects submitted, represent new donors and newly increased levels of giving to this vital field. I want to express my gratitude to the Genesis Prize Foundation and its partner, philanthropist Roman Abramovich, who were inspired by Itzhak Perlman to support this critically important initiative that will have a transformative effect on Jewish life.”
This is the second time GPF and JFN joined forces for the sake of tikkun olam, the Jewish concept of repairing the world; in 2015, the organizations worked together to enhance Academy Award and Genesis Prize winner Michael Douglas’s program that sought to engage more intermarried couples in Jewish life.
This article was written in cooperation with the Genesis Prize Foundation.