Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hands the Genesis Prize to Israeli-American violinist Itzhak Perlman at the Jerusalem Theater on June 23, 2016 (Photo Credit: Kobi Gideon/GPO)
Jerusalem (June 23, 2016) – Tonight at the gala ceremony held at the Jerusalem Theater, Israel’s Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu presented the 2016 Genesis Prize to the world’s preeminent violinist, teacher and advocate for people with disabilities Itzhak Perlman. Over 500 Israeli and international dignitaries attended the ceremony, which was emceed by the prominent British actress Dame Helen Mirren. Perlman also received congratulatory messages from U.S. President Barak Obama and Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
The Genesis Prize honors exceptional individuals who have attained excellence in their professional field, have made a significant contribution to humanity, and serve as an inspiration to others through their dedication to Jewish values and the State of Israel. Established in 2013, the annual Prize carries a $1 million award and has been dubbed by Time Magazine as the “Jewish Nobel.”
Itzhak Perlman became the third Genesis Prize Laureate and the first citizen of the State of Israel to be selected for the award. Former New York mayor, businessman and philanthropist Michael Bloomberg, and actor, producer and peace activist Michael Douglas received the Prize in 2014 and 2015, respectively.
A 16-time Grammy Award winner, Perlman is a recipient of national awards from three U.S. presidents, including the Medal of Liberty, the National Medal of Arts, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He has been actively involved in bringing up a new generation of world-class string musicians through the Perlman music program, and his distinguished contribution to culture and education was marked by an Honor of the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts.
Prime Minister Netanyahu said: “Itzhak, you are an advocate to those whose bodies are disabled but whose spirits never are. Your music exemplifies the profound human drive for creativity and beauty that gives meaning to our lives. On behalf of the people of Israel, we applaud your accomplishments, your dedication, your passion. Your music and your passion will continue to resonate for generations to come. Mazel tov on this well-deserved accomplishment”.
For the second year in a row, the proceeds of the Genesis Prize award were doubled to $2 million by a $1 million contribution from philanthropist Roman Abramovich. An additional $1 million will be raised through a matching funds program administered by the Jewish Funders Network, bringing the total amount of funding available to support Perlman’s signature philanthropic work to $3 million.
During a press conference held before the award ceremony, Perlman announced that the funding available through his Genesis Prize award would be used to support a series of initiatives in two key areas.
Approximately 80% of the Award fund will be invested in projects to foster greater integration of people with disabilities into society in Israel and North America, particularly Perlman’s hometown of New York City. The remaining 20% of the prize award will be invested in developing advanced training for highly talented musicians in Israel in order to provide them with an opportunity to bring their talents to the world stage.
“I am extremely honored to receive this award,” said Perlman in his acceptance speech. “The physical prize is wonderful, but what I cherish even more is the opportunity given to me by the founders of the Genesis Prize to make a meaningful difference in the lives of others. So thank you very much for this honor.”
“It gives us great pleasure to bestow this important award upon Itzhak Perlman – a role model and a modern day Jewish hero,” said Chairman and Co-Founder of the Genesis Prize Foundation Stan Polovets. “His story of overcoming extraordinary personal challenges to excel as one of the world’s great musicians and humanitarians is so reflective of the inherent strength of the Jewish character. He is an inspiration to all of us– both because of his refusal to give up and because of his commitment to give back.”
The award ceremony became a culmination of a week-long series of events in Israel around the Genesis Prize, the 2016 Laureate and his themes. Earlier in the week, Itzhak Perlman attended a special event in Jerusalem for athletes with disabilities, organized in his honor by Etgarim – a prominent Israeli organization for the disabled. The following day Itzhak Perlman spoke at the Knesset, addressing the issue of removing barriers and improving access for people with disabilities in Israel. Other events involved Dame Helen Mirren, who spoke at a special event at the Jerusalem Cinemateque and received the inaugural Jerusalem of Gold Award for Excellence in the Arts and Humanities from Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.