Russia Billionaires Fund $1 Million ‘Jewish Nobel’ in Israel



Mikhail Fridman, a billionaire shareholder in Russia's Alfa Group, helped create a $1 million "Jewish Nobel Prize" to be awarded annually with the Israeli government.

The Genesis prize will be awarded for global achievements in various professional fields, the sciences or the arts to highlight the contribution of Jews to world history, according to a statement e-mailed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office today.

"The prize symbolizes Jews' great contribution in human development and will be a source of pride for young Jews around the world," Netanyahu said in the statement.

Genesis Philanthropy Group, co-founded by Fridman, will finance the award, which the prime minister will present at a ceremony each year around the Passover holiday, according to the statement. Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky will head the selection committee.

Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Netanyahu in Jerusalem yesterday and with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Bethlehem today. Russia, a member of the so-called Quartet of world powers trying to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, is seeking to host negotiators in Moscow. More than 1 million Russian speakers live in Israel, or about 15 percent of the population, after waves of emigration from the former Soviet Union.

Three Years

"The Genesis Prize has nothing to do with political ties between Russia and Israel," Genesis CEO and co-founder Stan Polovets said by e-mail. "It's only appropriate that the prize to recognize outstanding Jewish achievement is awarded by the head of state of Israel." The group has initiatives around the world, in North America, Germany as well as Russia and Ukraine.

Genesis worked for more than three years with Netanyahu, his office and Sharansky to design the prize, Polovets said. The endowment will ensure the prize is awarded in perpetuity, he said, without elaborating on the amount.

Fridman has built up his wealth through Alfa Group's holdings in oil, finance, telecommunications and retail. Alfa is part of the AAR group, BP Plc (BP/)'s partner in TNK-BP, Russia's third-largest oil producer. Fridman submitted his resignation as TNK-BP chief executive officer last month, later saying the 50-50 partnership no longer served the shareholders' interests.

Genesis was established in 2007 by Fridman, Alfa Bank Chairman Petr Aven and TNK-BP Executive Director German Khan, as well as Polovets, who is also CEO of AAR, and Alex Knaster, a board member at both Alfa Bank and TNK-BP, according to its website.