(JTA) – What do Elana Kagan, Sacha Baron Cohen, Barbra Streisand, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Gal Gadot, Marc Benioff and Steven Spielberg have in common? Yes, they are all Jewish. And they all appear on the shortlist of the selection committee of the Genesis Prize to be this year’s laureate. This is the first time that the selection committee has released a list of potential winners, and the first time that the global Jewish community has been invited to weigh in on the choice of a winner. Voting is open now on the Genesis Prize website. Some 4,000 people were nominated by more than 45,000 people worldwide. The recipient of the 2021 Genesis Prize will receive a $1 million prize. Previous winners have donated their prize money to support philanthropic causes such as improving the lives of individuals with special needs, advancing women’s equality and supporting refugees.
The Genesis Prize, known as the “Jewish Nobel,” was started in 2013 and is financed through a permanent $100 million endowment. The annual award honors “extraordinary individuals for their outstanding professional achievement, contribution to humanity and commitment to Jewish values.” Previous winners include New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and musician Itzhak Perlman. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg received a lifetime achievement award in 2018.
Last year’s laureate was Natan Sharansky, a former Soviet dissident and former head of the Jewish Agency.