Former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg was honored by hundreds of dignitaries from around the world as the inaugural Genesis Prize Laureate at a ceremony tonight at the Jerusalem Theatre. The evening's celebration, emceed by the iconic comedian Jay Leno, included performances by Grammy award winning pianist Evgeny Kissin and Israel's beloved national singer Rita.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented the $1 million Genesis Prize to Bloomberg, saying, "Genesis Prize is awarded to an exceptional person who embodies the Jewish tradition and Jewish values. Our most important tradition is that we cherish our heritage but always strive for new things. We think of challenges and solutions and this is also the guiding principle of the State of Israel. We have achieved extraordinary things in 66 years and impressed the world. We achieve these things, because we are rooted in our traditions yet in the same time touching the future – in technology, science, breakthrough innovation. And nobody is deserving of this award more than Michael R. Bloomberg."
Accepting the first annual Genesis Prize, Bloomberg said, "Freedom. Justice. Service. Ambition. Innovation. These values have guided me through life. I think they're the same values that have guided the Jewish people through adversity and exile, poverty and plagues – right up to the creation of Israel. They are the reason Israel has such a remarkable start-up spirit, and why it has become such a powerful driver of progress in tech, medicine, and communications. To the future awardees in the Genesis Generation, I offer a few words of advice: follow your convictions. Think big. Take chances. Believe that tomorrow can be better than today – and understand that it's your responsibility to help make it so."
The Genesis Prize aims to honor and enhance Jewish identity around the world and spark a far-reaching and inclusive conversation about Jewish values, culture and heritage, especially among young people. Every year the Genesis Prize will recognize a Laureate who has attained excellence and international renown in his or her field, and whose actions and achievements embody the character of the Jewish people through commitment to Jewish values, the Jewish community and/or the State of Israel.
Mikhail Fridman, co-founder of the Genesis Philanthropy Group and the visionary behind this unique award, told the audience that the Genesis Prize is intended to inspire the next generation of Jews with the example of the Laureate's outstanding professional achievement, contributions to humanity and commitment to Jewish values.
"The aim of this prize is to awaken the Jewish identity by recognizing that being Jewish is not just an accident of birth, but a huge gift. Our forbearers have left us something far more valuable than land, castles or titles. They left us the Word, the Book and a set of values and rules, which, if understood correctly and applied diligently, lead to the ultimate reward in life – a sense of fulfillment and self-actualization," Fridman said.