March 25, 2021, New York – Today, The Genesis Prize Foundation (GPF) and Genesis Prize Laureate Steven Spielberg announced the recipients of the 2021 Genesis Prize grants – ten non-profit organizations working on the frontlines of racial and economic justice in the United States.
Grants will be funded by Steven Spielberg’s $1 million prize award, as well as a matching $1 million contribution made by Mr. Spielberg and Kate Capshaw.
The annual Genesis Prize, dubbed the “Jewish Nobel” by TIME magazine, honors extraordinary individuals for their outstanding professional achievement, contribution to humanity, and commitment to Jewish values. In February, Spielberg was announced as the 9th Genesis Prize Honoree.
“America is facing a crisis and our responsibility is to act now – so that America can be ‘America again, The Land that has never been yet, And yet must be,’” said Spielberg, quoting the poet Langston Hughes. “Judaism and Jewish history begin with two narratives: Genesis and Exodus, stories about creation and liberation from oppression, about the discovery of the moral voice and of human dignity. From these accounts come the ethical precepts commanding us to work for a more just and equitable world.”
Spielberg continued: “Honored to be among the Genesis Prize Laureates, I am both granting my award prize and Kate and I are matching the contribution with funds from our foundation to inspiring social justice organizations – Jewish and secular – that are on the frontlines of the struggle for a more equitable America. We admire these organizations for their honesty and moral imagination, and urge all those who share this vision to join us, so that the work of these non-profits may continue and grow.”
The following organizations will receive the grants: Avodah; Black Voters Matter; Collaborative for Jewish Organizing; Dayenu – A Jewish Call to Climate Action; Jews of Color Initiative; Justice for Migrant Women; National Domestic Workers Alliance; Native American Rights Fund; One Fair Wage and Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. For more information about these organizations, please refer to Background.
In a letter of congratulations to Steven Spielberg, President of the United States Joe Biden said: “Steven, I am inspired by the ways in which your Judaism has compelled you to confront the ugly forces of hate and intolerance with the healing power of truth and love. This is a timeless struggle and is a worthy cause to which I proudly join you in pledging my devotion.”
Stan Polovets, Co-founder and Chairman of The Genesis Prize Foundation, said: “For years, America’s commitment to freedom, justice and equality set an example for the world; today, we can no longer take these ideals for granted. Our democratic foundations are being challenged, and the COVID crisis has further increased social and economic disparities. Steven Spielberg’s decision to focus his Genesis Prize on the pursuit of racial and economic justice reflects the urgent need for us to act. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said: ‘The demand for justice, peace and enlightenment runs through the entirety of Jewish tradition.’ Kate and Steven’s generosity and vision translate this ancient quest into meaningful social action our country needs today.”
Mr. Spielberg’s decision follows the tradition established by previous Genesis Prize honorees, whereby laureates forgo the monetary award and the funds are granted, in their honor, to philanthropic causes about which they are passionate. Several Genesis Prize Laureates have previously donated their award to various social justice causes. Inaugural Laureate Michael Bloomberg (2014) funded startups engaged in social entrepreneurship based on Jewish values. “Fiddler to the World” Itzhak Perlman (2016) directed his award to programs improving the lives of people with disabilities. Sculptor and activist Anish Kapoor (2017) used his award to fund organizations working to alleviate the refugee crisis. In 2018, The Genesis Prize Foundation funded US and Israeli women’s rights NGOs in honor of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the recipient of the Genesis Lifetime Achievement Award.
BACKGROUND ON GRANTEES
The recipients of the 2021 Genesis Prize grants in honor of Steven Spielberg are:
Avodah develops lifelong social justice leaders whose work is informed by Jewish values and who inspire the Jewish community to work toward a more just and equitable world. The organization inspires Jewish leaders to commit to a life of social change, promotes a vision of Jewish life rooted in justice, and engages the broader Jewish community the most pressing issues facing our country at a local and national level.
Black Voters Matter’s Capacity Building Institute aims to increase civic engagement and power building in predominantly Black communities and believes that effective voting allows a community to determine its own destiny. BVM works to strengthen the capacity of community-based organizations seeking to expand civic engagement and project support for institutional strengthening.
The initiative called the Collaborative for Jewish Organizing brings together Jewish grassroots organizations from across the United States addressing social injustice. Together, Jewish leaders who are working in places like Detroit, Maryland, and North Carolina, share best practices, address shared challenges, and create the deep, inter-group connections effective long-term movement building requires.
Dayenu: A Jewish Call to Climate Action is dedicated to building a movement of American Jews confronting the climate crisis with spiritual audacity and bold political action. The organization mobilizes multi-generational Jewish support for climate action that centers communities most impacted by the climate crisis, builds collective power with national and global multi-racial and multi-faith movements, and raises up a spiritual and moral voice. In 2020, the organization advocated for a just, green recovery, addressing racial and economic injustice while building a sustainable future for all, for generations to come.
The Jews of Color Initiative is a national effort focused on building and advancing the professional, organizational and communal field for Jews of Color.
Through a number of strategies including grantmaking, research, and community education, the Initiative raises awareness about the diversity of the Jewish community and works to make that community more equitable and inclusive.
Justice for Migrant Women protects and advances migrant women’s rights through education, public awareness and advocacy. Justice for Migrant Women aims to ensure that all migrant women are guaranteed human and civil rights, including the freedom of mobility, the ability to live and work with dignity, and the right to be free of threats of violence against them and their families, whether they are migrating across borders, around regions or within states.
The National Domestic Workers Alliance is the nation’s leading voice for dignity and fairness for the millions of domestic workers in the United States. Founded in 2007, NDWA works for respect, recognition, and inclusion in labor protections for domestic workers, the majority of whom are immigrants and women of color.
Since 1970, the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) has provided legal assistance to Indian tribes, organizations, and individuals nationwide who might otherwise have gone without adequate representation. NARF has successfully asserted and defended the most important rights of Indians and tribes in hundreds of major cases, and has achieved significant results in such critical areas as tribal sovereignty, treaty rights, natural resource protection, and Indian education.
One Fair Wage is a national organization seeking to improve wages and working conditions for the more than 14 million workers in the service sector and end all subminimum wages in the United States. One Fair Wage includes 240,000 service workers and 850 responsible restaurant owners nationwide working together to conduct policy shift, industry shift, and narrative shift activities that uplift wages and working conditions sector wide.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (the RAC) works to educate, inspire, and mobilize the Reform Jewish Movement to advocate for social justice. It works on more than 70 issues including racial justice, gun violence prevention, immigration, reproductive rights, and criminal justice reform; and mobilizes around federal, state, provincial, and local legislation. The work is mandated by the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), whose nearly 850 congregations across North America include 1.5 million Reform Jews and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 2,000 Reform rabbis.