Legendary Tonight Show host Jay Leno will emcee the May 22 Genesis Prize Ceremony at the Jerusalem Theater in Israel where former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg will be honored as the inaugural Genesis Prize laureate, The Algemeiner has learned.
"Jay Leno is a comedic icon who has entertained millions of people around the world for over 20 years. What many don't know, however, is that he is also a great friend to Israel," said Stan Polovets, chairman of the Board of the Genesis Prize Foundation. "We are delighted that he will join us and hundreds of global influencers in celebrating the achievements of the inaugural Genesis Prize laureate Michael Bloomberg."
Over 400 international dignitaries – including Nobel laureates, leading philanthropists and global business leaders – will be in attendance at the event. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will present Bloomberg with the first $1 million Genesis Prize, which is endowed by the Genesis Philanthropy Group and will be awarded annually in partnership with the Prime Minister's Office and the Jewish Agency for Israel. Grammy award-winning pianist, and new Israeli citizen, Evgeny Kissin will be the featured musical performer at the ceremony.
"It is a great honor to be invited to host this prestigious event," said Leno, who is not Jewish. "I am very excited, this will be my first visit to Israel and I can't wait to be a part of the Genesis Prize ceremony."
Leno topped TV ratings for more than two decades with the Tonight Show, which he stepped down from in February. He has since been replaced by former Saturday Night Live cast member Jimmy Fallon.
The talk show host is involved in a number of philanthropic causes and each year does numerous benefit performances, including shows for those affected by the 9/11, 2001 tragedy, the 2004 tsunami in Thailand, hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico and the severe economic downturn in Detroit.
The Genesis Prize ceremony will include remarks from Bloomberg and Natan Sharansky, chairman of the executive of The Jewish Agency for Israel and chairman of the Selection Committee for the Genesis Prize. There will also be performances by Israeli singer Rita, the Tararam dance group, actress and comedian Hanah Laszlo and the acclaimed Raanana Symphonette Orchestra.
The Genesis Prize was created to honor and enhance Jewish identity globally and spark conversation, especially among the younger generations, about Jewish values, culture and heritage.
"The development and strengthening of Jewish identity in Israel and the Diaspora contributes to the welfare of humanity across the world," said Sharansky. "Only by modern-day Jews' better understanding their Jewish values and heritage can we fully realize our potential to build on the achievements of the past. The Genesis Prize is an important milestone in the work of the Jewish Agency, the State of Israel and Jewish philanthropists towards the union and the strengthening of the Jewish people."