New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg will be the first ever recipient of a new award organizers are calling the "Jewish Nobel Prize," The Genesis Prize Foundation announced Monday. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will present Bloomberg with the $1 million Genesis Prize at a special ceremony in Jerusalem in May.
The Genesis Philanthropy Group (GPG) established the prize with the stated aim of "recognizing exceptional human beings who, through their outstanding achievement, come to represent a fundamental value of the Jewish people – a commitment to the betterment of mankind."
The charity was founded by Russian Jewish billionaires, who donated $100 million to pay for the prize for years to come.
Bloomberg was selected out of more than 200 nominees representing six continents, due to his "track record of outstanding public service and his role as one of the world's greatest philanthropists," the prize committee said.
The incumbent New York mayor said he was deeply honored to receive the award.
"Many years ago, my parents instilled in me Jewish values and ethics that I have carried with me throughout my life, and which have guided every aspect of my work in business, government, and philanthropy. The Genesis Prize embraces and promotes those same values and ethics — a common thread among the Jewish people worldwide that has helped move humankind forward for centuries," Bloomberg said in a statement.
Bloomberg, whose net worth according to Forbes is $31 billion, plans to donate the $1 million prize to a charity to be named at a later stage.
The Genesis Prize was founded in 2012 by the Office of the Prime Minister of Israel, the Genesis Philanthropy Group, and the Jewish Agency for Israel.
Several Israeli politicians and Jewish leaders are taking part in the various committees involved in selecting the winner and awarding the prize including Natan Sharansky, who serves as the Chairman of the Selection Committee, as well as Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel and Chief Rabbi Emeritus of the UK, Lord Jonathan Sacks.
"Mayor Bloomberg's selection as the first Genesis Prize Laureate reflects his track record of outstanding public service and his role as one of the world's greatest philanthropists," Edelstein explained. "As a visionary entrepreneur, he has transformed the way the world conducts business and created a more open and better informed world. Mayor Bloomberg has successfully advanced practical solutions to key global issues that range from education and public health to the environment and global innovation. He has also been outspoken in his support of Israel and exhibits a great sense of pride in his Jewish identity and heritage."
Meanwhile, Weisel said that Bloomberg sets the bar high as the first recipient of the prize. "It is a great honor for the entire Jewish people to celebrate his achievements, his commitment to improving the world, and in particular his city: New York. His pursuit of the agenda centered on health, innovation and social justice has been unwavering. We are certain that his selection as the recipient of the Genesis Prize will serve as an inspiration to young Jews and others across the globe," he added.
Netanyahu is quoted on the Genesis Prize's official website as saying: "This prize will emphasize the role of the Jewish people in the progress of humanity, strengthen the pride of the Jewish youth worldwide in their legacy, help them to develop their Jewish identity and facilitate their bond with Israel."
In addition to financing the annual award, the endowment established by GPG will be used to support educational and cultural programs aimed at engaging young adults on the theme of the laureate's achievements.