Natan Sharansky, the former head of Israel’s Jewish Agency, a renowned human rights advocate and author was announced as the 2020 recipient of he Genesis Prize on Monday, December 9.
The former refusenik, who came to fame as a pivotal figure in the plight of Soviet Union Jews striving for political and religious freedom, is being recognized as the eighth Genesis Prize Laureate for his service to the Jewish people and the State of Israel, but also for his contribution to humanity.
Considered similar to a “Jewish” Nobel Prize Laureate, the Genesis Prize comes with a $1 million prize award, but Sharansky has declined the honor. In his honor, the Genesis Prize Foundation, which oversees the nomination and selection process, will donate the cash prize to organizations it has designated.
Sharansky has also written three best-selling books “Fear No Evil” in 1998, “The Case for Democracy” in 2004 and “Defending Identity” in 2008.
Sharansky follows other mostly Jewish recipients of the Genesis Prize: New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, former New York City mayor and current presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg; actor and producer Michael Douglas; violinist Itzhak Perlman; sculptor Sir Anish Kapoor and Oscar-winning actress Natalie Portman. In 2018, the Genesis Prize Foundation also selected U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as the recipient of its inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award for her decades long work for equal rights and her commitment to social justice.
“I am humbled by this honor and thank the Genesis Prize Foundation for recognizing my work to promote democracy, rule of law, and human rights,” Sharansky said on hearing the news. “As my personal hero President Ronald Reagan said, freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not passed to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like to live when men were free.”
Sharansky will accept his honor officially at the Genesis Prize Ceremony in Jerusalem on June 18, 2020.