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. Natan believed that donating his $1 million prize to organizations combating coronavirus and helping vulnerable individuals was the most important thing he could do in the face of this worldwide crisis.

The 2020 Genesis Prize grants will support a total of 15 NGOs and institutions working in the humanitarian, social, scientific and medical fields to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and advance the recovery.

In Israel, grants in honor of Sharansky will fund nine organizations working to help the vulnerable and advance medical and scientific innovation.  These include:

  • 1221 Assistance for all, an emergency response service in Jerusalem helping both Jews and non-Jews affected by the coronavirus epidemic – an alliance of United Hatzalah, Lev Echad, and Israel Association of Community Centers;
  • Association of Rape Crisis Centers of Israel, which will utilize the grant to hire additional staff as it works to mitigate a 40% increase in domestic violence during the lockdown;
  • ALEH Negev, supporting the most isolated and vulnerable populations on the country’s periphery, including children with severe disabilities; additional staff will be hired to replace volunteers unable to work due to coronavirus;
  • TEREM Public Clinic, providing medical services to the residents of South Tel Aviv, many of whom are not covered by government medical plans;
  • Enosh Israeli Mental Health Organization, to hire additional professionals speaking Russian, Amharit, English and Arabic to respond to the increased mental health caseload;
  • Migdal Ohr, supporting high-risk Israeli prisoners sent home to reduce crowding in Israeli prisons because of coronavirus;
  • Two projects in partnership with the Jewish Agency for Israel – through volunteer service by young adults at Machon Shlichim working with the elderly and at-risk youth hit by coronavirus and by funding interest-free loans for struggling Israeli NGOs through Ogen;
  • The Weizmann Institute which will use the grant to fund research to develop the COVID-19 vaccine.


Beyond Israel, Genesis Prize grants will support projects in eight countries, including:

Italy, France, Russia, and Spain:  Expanding volunteer activities to help the isolated and elderly members of the Jewish communities affected by COVID-19 in Rome, Madrid, Paris, and Moscow (grantee: Moishe House);

Ukraine and Belarus: Providing support to the most vulnerable community members by 130 Hillel student volunteers working in six cities in Ukraine and Belarus to Jewish elderly and homebound (grantee: Hillel);

United States:  Funding research to mitigate medical complications of coronavirus by medical staff at Columbia University Irving Medical Center and a competition to for students at New York University Tandon School of Engineering to solve physical challenges presented by COVID-19; supporting the Hebrew Free Loan Society to help with the overwhelming increase in requests for loans due to coronavirus-related financial hardships, including lay-offs;

UK:  Providing personal protective equipment to staff engaged in giving care and support to vulnerable residents in care homes including those receiving end of life care (grantee:  Jewish Care).

In addition to these grants, Natan Sharansky initiated a special competition recognizing Israeli companies working to combat coronavirus and the potential damage of future pandemics. The Genesis Prize Foundation, assisted by Start-Up Nation Central, will award prizes to Israeli companies that have made significant contributions to fighting COVID-19, or are working on promising technologies, therapies, or vaccines that have the potential to provide significant benefit in the near future. The winning companies will donate their prize funds to a worthy NGO of their choice; the process will be led by Matan-United Way.

Winners of the competition will be announced at a virtual event in December 2020. Click here to learn more about the competition and see the distinguished panel of judges who will select the winner.


At the time of the announcement of the grants, Natan Sharansky said, “Many people of good will around the world have given generously to help organizations and individuals who have been devastated by COVID-19; I am grateful to have the opportunity to contribute to this humanitarian effort.

"Throughout the long history of the Jewish people, our ability to come together as one during the times of crisis – to unite and help each other – gave us strength to persevere and face the future with hope and confidence. That’s why 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.”