Genesis Prize Releases Short List of Nominees for the 2021 “Jewish Nobel”

In a departure from traditional, closed-door process, Selection Committee shares names of short-listed nominees and invites the public to vote for next year’s Laureate.


September 16, 2020, Jerusalem – In a major deviation from the highly discreet process employed over the past seven years, The Genesis Prize Foundation (GPF) released today the short list of nominees for the 2021 Genesis Prize and invited the global Jewish community to participate in the selection of next year’s winner.

The seven individuals on the list have been selected from over 4,000 names nominated by more than 45,000 people worldwide and include:

  • Justice of the United States Supreme Court Elena Kagan (US)
  • Actor, producer, director and vocal critic of social media platforms Sacha Baron Cohen (UK)
  • Singer and actress Barbra Streisand (US)
  • Theologian, author and former Chief Rabbi of the UK Lord Jonathan Sacks (UK)
  • Actress, producer and advocate for the empowerment of young women Gal Gadot (Israel)
  • Founder of Salesforce, owner of TIME Magazine, and mega-philanthropist Marc Benioff (US)
  • Film director, producer and screenwriter Steven Spielberg (US)

The recipient of the 2021 Genesis Prize, dubbed “The Jewish Nobel” by TIME Magazine, will follow the human rights legend Natan Sharansky, who was honored with the award in 2020. Other previous honorees include former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and virtuoso violinist Itzhak Perlman.  In the past, the committees choosing the Laureate never revealed the names of the nominees and only announced their final selection.

The annual $1 million Genesis Prize honors extraordinary individuals for their outstanding professional achievement, contribution to humanity, and commitment to Jewish values. All Genesis Prize laureates to date directed their award to philanthropic causes such as improving the lives of individuals with special needs, advancing women’s equality, and supporting refugees. The 2019 Laureate, Robert Kraft, also donated $20 million of his own money to seed a foundation dedicated to combating anti-Semitism.

The seven short-listed nominees have been selected as a result of a month-long global online nominations campaign. For the first time since the Prize was awarded in 2013, the process was open to the public.  In previous years, only a select group of prominent Jewish and non-Jewish individuals was invited to nominate the candidates.

Co-founder and Chairman of The Genesis Prize Foundation Stan Polovets said: “The Genesis Prize is evolving from an elite committee-driven process to a more inclusive approach that seeks to engage the entire Jewish world. The voice of the Jewish people – from all walks of life, different demographic groups, and across generations – will now become an extremely important factor in the nomination and selection of our distinguished honorees. While members of the Selection Committee and the Prize Committee will make the ultimate decision, our foundation has asked them to give considerable weight to the popular vote as they start their deliberations regarding the 2021 Genesis Prize Laureate.”

Polovets added that if this experimental approach proves successful, it will be adopted for nomination and selection of all future Laureates.

Chairman of the Genesis Prize Selection Committee and Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel Isaac Herzog said: “I thank the 45,000 people who showed that they care deeply about the Jewish future and the bond between the State of Israel and the Diaspora by taking the time to nominate individuals who could be role models for the next generation of Jews. The quality, diversity and accomplishments of the nominees are amazing and will make it very difficult for the judges to select one winner from a short list of seven outstanding individuals."

Voting, which starts today, will be conducted online at this link. The 2021 Laureate will be announced early next year, along with the philanthropic initiative to which the $1 million prize, and possibly additional matching funds, will be directed.

The Genesis Prize Foundation