$3 Million Initiative for Jews With Disabilities Launched in Honor of Itzhak Perlman

'Breaking Barriers' to promote inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of Jewish communal life, echoing Perlman's lifelong dedication to educating society about doing more to enable people with disabilities.

Itzhak Perlman plays the violin during the National Menorah lighting in celebration of Hanukkah near the White House in Washington on Wednesday, December 10, 2010.
AP

The Genesis Prize Foundation and the Jewish Funders Network launched a $3 million matching grant program to fund an initiative to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in Jewish life.

The Breaking Barriers program launched Monday in honor of 2016 Genesis Prize laureate Itzhak Perlman will promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of Jewish communal life. It echoes Perlman’s lifelong dedication to educating society about doing more to enable people with disabilities to use their strengths and realize their potential.

The funds for the program will be distributed in North America and Israel, according to the Genesis Prize Foundation and the Jewish Funders Network. A competition is currently underway in Israel to determine the final recipients of the 3.2 million NIS (more than $848,000) in prize money, to be administered by Matan Investing in the Community - United Way Israel.

Perlman, 70, an acclaimed violinist, educator and advocate for individuals with disabilities, was diagnosed with polio at 4 and uses a motorized cart.

When he was awarded the Genesis Prize in Jerusalem in June, Perlman pledged to use the $1 million award to benefit programs for people with disabilities. The so-called Jewish Nobel is awarded to individuals who have achieved professional success, made a significant contribution to humanity, and inspired others through their engagement and dedication to the Jewish community and the State of Israel.

It is the second matching grant collaboration between the Genesis Prize Foundation and Jewish Funders Network. The 2015 “Avenues to Jewish Engagement for Intermarried Couples and their Families” program was established last year in honor of the 2015 Genesis Prize laureate, Michael Douglas, and generated $3.3 million in new funds.

Perlman said he was “honored” to be part of Breaking Barriers.

“And to have the opportunity to encourage other funders to join this critical initiative so that each person, regardless of his or her abilities, will have the opportunity to maximize their potential and to participate as full members of the community,” he said in a statement. “This is a great opportunity to open more doors and accept all who choose to enter.”

In November, Perlman received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama. He has won 16 Grammys.

The Genesis Prize is endowed by the Genesis Philanthropy Group, which endeavors to build Jewish identity among Russian-speaking Jews worldwide. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was the first winner in 2014.