Anish Kapoor Pledges $1m Genesis Prize to Refugee Causes


Anish Kapoor
Anish Kapoor

“Jewish Nobel” Laureate Anish Kapoor Pledges $1m Genesis Prize to Refugee Causes

The Genesis Prize Foundation (GPF) and 2017 Genesis Prize Laureate and world-renowned artist and human rights activist Anish Kapoor announced grants to five prominent NGOs engaged in alleviating the global refugee crisis.

The recipient organizations assist refugees globally and include the International Rescue Committee (IRC), led by its president David Miliband, as well as the Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees (MFA), HIAS (founded as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society), Help Refugees, and Hillel International.

The grants are funded by the $1 million Genesis Prize, dubbed the “Jewish Nobel” by TIME Magazine. Anish Kapoor has chosen to focus on refugees as an expression both of his lifelong commitment to supporting excluded people and as an expression of core Jewish values.

The Genesis Prize honors extraordinary individuals who serve as an inspiration to the next generation of Jews through their outstanding professional achievement and commitment to the Jewish people and Jewish values, such as social justice, tolerance and charity. Laureates of the Genesis Prize include Michael R. Bloomberg (2014), Michael Douglas (2015), Itzhak Perlman (2016), and Natalie Portman (2018). In November 2017, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was selected as the inaugural recipient of the Genesis Lifetime Achievement Award.

Kapoor and The Genesis Prize Foundation have teamed up with the IRC to improve community health services for refugees in northern Uganda and to provide life-saving access to safe water for the Rohingya ethnic minority group in the Rakhine state in Myanmar. Genesis funds will also support the expansion into Italy of Refugee.Info, a digital platform, which harnesses social media and other digital tools to ensure that refugees have access to the critical information they need to make informed decisions about their lives.

Additionally, Kapoor’s $1 million Genesis Prize will fund the following activities:

  • Providing life-saving winterization to five refugee camps in Greece and a refugee camp in Calais, France, including the funding of food and the most essential winter equipment (through Help Refugees)
  • Shipping 36 containers of aid to Syrian refugees (through Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees); the contents of the first two containers that MFA will ship under the Genesis Prize program will have a combined value of $20.7 million in medicines and medical equipment
  • Strengthening the capacity of local leaders in communities across America to advocate in support of immigrants and refugees to the U.S. (through HIAS); the amount of the grant was doubled as a result of recent policy debate in Washington aimed at curtailing the number of immigrants and refugees from certain countries that the U.S. would accept in the future
  • Bringing thousands of Jewish students and young adult volunteers together to assemble aid packages for 5,000 Syrian refugees (through Hillel International, in collaboration with the Joint Distribution Committee)

These grants come on the heels of an earlier announcement of a major grant from GPF to Ziv hospital in northern Israel to fund hearing restoration for Syrian children brought from the neighbouring conflict zone. The Ziv grant was made in partnership with Israeli philanthropist Morris Kahn.

Anish Kapoor said: “Like many Jews, I do not have to go far back in my family history to find people who were refugees. Directing Genesis Prize funds to this cause is a way of helping people who, like my forebears not too long before them, are fleeing persecution.

“In recent months, awareness of the plight faced by tens of millions of refugees and displaced persons worldwide has fallen significantly while the refugee crisis continues unabated. I believe in a world of compassion, and am fortunate to be able to work with The Genesis Prize Foundation and the terrific NGOs receiving our grants to bring more compassion into the world.”

Michael Fridman, co-founder of The Genesis Prize Foundation, said: “I believe it is a moral obligation of every Jew to do whatever he or she can to help refugees, displaced people, and those seeking asylum. There was a time not too long ago when the world turned its back on Jewish refugees, with calamitous results. We, Jews, should not allow history to repeat itself when it comes to other persecuted peoples and religious and ethnic minorities. Otherwise, we have learned nothing from history.” In addition to co-founding The Genesis Prize Foundation, Fridman is a major contributor to many other Jewish and Israel-focused philanthropic initiatives, including the recently announced renovation of the Israeli Lounge at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.

President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, David Miliband, himself a son of Jewish refugees, said: “Grants like the one from The Genesis Prize Foundation are vital to supporting our work as we grapple with the largest displacement crisis since the Second World War, affecting a staggering 65 million people.

“We are grateful to The Genesis Prize Foundation, which is leading the way in raising awareness of the refugee issue in the Jewish community. It is more important than ever for people to help those who have been forced to flee their homes. With these funds, the IRC will have the ability to provide much-needed resources and support to displaced people in areas across Europe, Africa and Southeast Asia.”

A message from Stan Polovets,  Chairman and Co-Founder, The Genesis Prize Foundation:

I am writing to share with you the announcement of Genesis Prize grants made in honor of our 2017 Laureate Anish Kapoor. The grants are aimed at helping to alleviate the ongoing refugee crisis and encourage the worldwide Jewish community to engage more actively in a global effort to support refugees.

In addition to providing funds to organizations working directly with refugees, we have made a grant to HIAS for its advocacy work in support of immigrants and refugees to the U.S. We doubled the amount of this grant late last week as a result of a recent policy debate in Washington aimed at curtailing the number of immigrants and refugees from certain countries. At a moment in America when both energetic activism and strategic advocacy for refugees is critical, this grant will connect and train Jewish activists and those of other faiths in order to strengthen the advocacy movement in support of refugees.

I want to end this communication on a personal note. I am a refugee from the former Soviet Union and most of us are only two or three generations removed from relatives who fled persecution and adversity. This is true for Anish Kapoor, who comes from a long line of Baghdadi Jews, was born in India and moved to Israel before eventually settling down in the UK. It’s true for the president of the International Rescue Committee, David Miliband, who lost 43 family members to the Holocaust and whose father escaped from Nazi-occupied Belgium. (IRC is a recipient of a large grant we announced today). And it’s likely true for you.

Anish, David and I believe it is a moral obligation of every Jew — and every decent human being regardless of his or her faith — to help refugees. We cannot allow history to repeat itself when it comes to persecuted peoples and religious and ethnic minorities. Otherwise, we have learned nothing from history.

If you are interested in joining us, you can donate directly to one of the grantees selected by Anish Kapoor and The Genesis Prize Foundation by clicking on the links below. We have thoroughly vetted each of these organizations and the projects we are supporting so you can be sure that your donations will be put to good use.

Help Refugees (please note Genesis in the reference)
Hillel International
International Rescue Committee
Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugee
Ziv Hospital

Thank you and I look forward to your joining us in this important work.


Michael Fridman

Michael Fridman is an international businessman and co-founder of LetterOne (L1), the international investment business headquartered in Luxembourg, with offices in London and New York. L1 has approximately $23 billion under management, with investments in energy, telecoms, high tech, health care, and retail sectors. Fridman was born into a Jewish family in Lvov, Ukraine, which before WWII was part of Poland.  He is a co-founder of The Genesis Prize Foundation, Genesis Philanthropy Group, Russian Jewish Congress and a number of other Jewish and non-Jewish charitable organizations and NGOs.

Morris Kahn

Morris Kahn is a South African-born businessman and philanthropist who made aliyah in 1956. An active humanitarian, Morris Kahn has supported a wide variety of philanthropic causes and business initiatives including: founding the Coral World Underwater Observatory; founding Amdocs; founding LEAD, created to help develop the next generation of leaders; and serving as a major donor of Save a Child’s Heart, among others.

Anish Kapoor

Anish Kapoor is one of the most influential and innovative artists of his generation, whose works include ‘Turning the World Upside Down’ at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, ‘Cloud Gate’ in Chicago’s Millennium Park and the ‘Orbit’ in London. Kapoor also created the Holocaust Memorial for the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in London and the 70 candles for Holocaust Memorial Day in Britain in 2015, commemorating the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Kapoor won the Turner Prize in 1991 and received a knighthood in 2013. Kapoor’s mother comes from a distinguished line of Baghdadi Jews and his grandfather was a cantor at a synagogue in Pune, India. The artist was born in India and lived for a brief time in Israel before settling down in the UK in the 1970s.

David Miliband

From 2007 to 2010, Miliband was the 74th Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of the United Kingdom, driving advancements in human rights and representing the U.K. throughout the world. He has been president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee since 2013. The organization traces its roots to the International Relief Association, which was co-founded in the 1930’s by Albert Einstein, to help those trying to escape atrocities in Europe at the time. IRC volunteers were among the first civilians to offer aid to Europe’s displaced peoples. Today the agency runs humanitarian relief operations in more than 40 war-affected countries, and refugee resettlement and assistance programs in 28 United States cities. David Miliband’s own father fled from Nazi-occupied Belgium to the UK in 1940, while his extended family lost 43 members during the Holocaust.

Previous Genesis Prize Laureates and Their “Re-gifting” Initiatives

The inaugural Genesis Prize Laureate, Michael R. Bloomberg, directed his 2014 award to fund the Genesis Generation Challenge, a competition to support young social entrepreneurs. Nine winning teams received funding to execute projects modeled on the value of tikkun olam, such as the development of technology that allowed quadriplegics to remain in touch with the world.

2015 Genesis Prize Laureate, actor, director and peace activist Michael Douglas directed his $1m award, as well as an additional $1m provided by philanthropist Roman Abramovich, to initiatives that aimed to include intermarried families in Jewish life. In partnership with Hillel, the Laureate’s initiatives reached out to thousands of students on campuses of universities around the world. A matching grants program resulted in $3.3m being distributed to 27 grantees, enabling a significant infusion of funding into this relatively new area of philanthropy. Douglas spoke to international audiences on issues such as anti-Semitism, Jewish identity and strength through diversity. In December 2016, Douglas was a keynote speaker at the UJA Wall Street Dinner in New York, which raised a record $28m.

2016 Genesis Prize Laureate, virtuoso violinist and advocate for people with disabilities Itzhak Perlman launched “Breaking Barriers,” an initiative to improve access to high-quality cultural events and education for people with disabilities. The matching grants program funded dozens of specialized organizations that work to integrate people with disabilities in cultural life. Perlman also directed funding to projects supporting Jewish culture and elite classical music training for Israelis. Additional contributions and the matching grants programs increased the total funds to $4m.

2018 Genesis Prize Laureate Natalie Portman plans to focus her Genesis Prize award funds on promoting women’s equality and empowerment. Additional details will be announced in the spring/summer of 2018.

The Genesis Lifetime Achievement Award, which will be presented to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in July 2018, did not involve a financial prize.

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