The Genesis Prize Foundation announced on Wednesday that Robert Kraft, the prominent Jewish philanthropist who owns the New England Patriots, will receive the 2019 Genesis Prize, also known as the "Jewish Nobel."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will present the $1-million award to Kraft during a ceremony in Jerusalem in June. In keeping with tradition, Kraft will donate the money to a cause of his choice – "initiatives combatting anti-Semitism and other forms of prejudice as well as attempts to de-legitimize the State of Israel." The foundation wrote that Kraft has "spoken out publicly and donated generously" to such organizations.
Kraft said he is honored to receive the prize and thanked the foundation. "This award amplifies my ability to raise both awareness and additional funds to fight anti-Semitism, attempts to de-legitimize Israel and other forms of prejudices," Kraft said. "It is important that we continue to support organizations that focus on combatting prejudices by building bridges and uniting people of different backgrounds.”
Kraft, 77, chairman and CEO of the Kraft Group – a holding company with assets in paper, packaging, real estate and sports teams – is a large-scale philanthropist who has donated heavily to Jewish and Israeli causes, as well as $1 million to U.S. President Donald Trump's inauguration.
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The Genesis Prize was established by Mikhail Fridman and other wealthy Russian-Jewish businessmen and operates in a partnership with Israel’s Prime Minister’s Office and the Jewish Agency for Israel. The award "honors extraordinary individuals for their outstanding professional achievement, contribution to humanity, and commitment to Jewish values and Israel," according to the foundation.
Last year's ceremony was mired in controversy and was ultimately canceled after recipient Natalie Portman said she would not take part in light of "recent events."
The foundation said it was "very saddened" that the Israeli-American actress would not take part in the ceremony. According to the foundation, Portman’s representative notified it that "[r]ecent events in Israel have been extremely distressing to her and she does not feel comfortable participating in any public events in Israel” and that “she cannot in good conscience move forward with the ceremony."
Portman did not specify which events caused her distress, although the United Nations and the European Union recently called for investigations into the use of live ammunition by Israel’s military following clashes along the border with Gaza that have left dozens of Palestinians dead and hundreds wounded.