Jay Leno, iconic television personality on The Tonight Show will host an event in Jerusalem awarding former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg the inaugural Genesis Prize.
Leno will host the ceremony on May 22 at the Jerusalem Theater, where more than 400 international dignitaries will attend, including Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Nobel laureates, philanthropists and global business leaders, it was announced Thursday. Grammy award-winning pianist Evgeny Kissin, who made aliya last year, and Israeli singer Rita will perform at the event.
"Jay Leno is a comedic icon who has entertained millions of people around the world for over 20 years," said Stan Polovets, chairman of the board of the Genesis Prize Foundation. "What many don't know, however, is that he is also a great friend to Israel. 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."
Leno, in addition to his decades-long television career, has also dedicated his time to countless philanthropic causes, including benefit performances for those whose lives were devastated by the tragic events of September 11, the tsunami in Thailand, and hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico.
"It is a great honor to be invited to host this prestigious event," said Leno. "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."
Netanyahu will present Bloomberg with the $1 million prize, endowed by the Genesis Philanthropy Group, which will be awarded annually in partnership with the Prime Minister's Office and the Jewish Agency for Israel.
According to the prize's website, the award is a symbol of a movement to honor and enhance Jewish identity around the world and recognize achievements of individuals who "embody the character of the Jewish people" through a commitment to Israel, the Jewish community and Jewish values.
"The development and strengthening of Jewish identity in Israel and the Diaspora contributes to the welfare of humanity across the world. 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," said Natan Sharansky, chairman of the executive of the Jewish Agency and chairman of the selection committee of the Genesis Prize.
"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," he said.