New York City’s ’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been named recipient of the first ever Genesis Prize, endowed by the Genesis Philanthropy Group and administered by a partnership, which includes the Office of the Prime Minister of the State of Israel, the Genesis Philanthropy Group, and the Jewish Agency for Israel. Intended “to inspire unity throughout the global Jewish community,” the prize carries a $1 million award. It will be presented by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a special ceremony in Jerusalem in May.
“As a visionary entrepreneur, [Mayor Bloomberg] has transformed the way the world conducts business and created a more open and better informed world. …He has also been outspoken in his support of Israel and exhibits a great sense of pride in his Jewish identity and heritage,” said Speaker of the Israeli Knesset Yuli Edelstein, in announcing Bloomberg’s selection as recipient of the award that has quickly become known as the “Jewish Nobel Prize.”
The 71-year-old Bloomberg, who will complete his third and final term as New York mayor at the end of this year, is reported to be worth $31 billion. He said he would likely donate his prize money to a cause in the Middle East. “I want it to go for something unconventional that my foundation hasn’t supported in the past,” he said.
To be sure, the awarding of $1 million to a public figure with so vast a personal fortune inspired some criticism in Jewish communal circles. Many expected the prize to be awarded to someone in need of the prize to advance work currently being conducted that would advance the Jewish cause aimed at a younger demographic.
Awarding Bloomberg $1 million, wrote Marc Tracy in The New Republic, “is like giving the average U.S. household $1.56.”
“The soon-to-be-ex-mayor is a great philanthropist,” he noted. “Which begs the question of whether the Genesis Philanthropy Group’s $100 million endowment couldn’t be put to wiser use.”