Itzhak Perlman named recipient of 2016 Genesis Prize

Marcy Oster

(JTA) — Renowned violinist Itzhak Perlman is the recipient of the 2016 Genesis Prize.

The decision was announced Monday by the Genesis Prize Foundation.

The annual $1 million prize is meant to recognize an accomplished, internationally renowned professional who is a role model in his or her community and whose actions and achievements express a commitment to Jewish values, the Jewish community and Israel, and who can inspire the younger generation of Jews worldwide.

The inaugural Genesis Prize – dubbed by Time magazine as “The Jewish Nobel” – was awarded in 2014 to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a leading world philanthropist. Academy-award winning actor, producer and peace activist Michael Douglas received the prize in 2015.

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The announcement of Perlman’s Genesis Prize award comes less than a month after he received  in Washington DC the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Two other U.S. presidents – Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton – have previously recognized Perlman, a Warner Music artist, by awarding him the Medal of Liberty and the National Medal of Arts in 1986 and 2000, respectively.

Perlman is a 16-time Grammy Award winner and he was the soloist for the musical score in “Schindler’s List,” which subsequently won an Academy Award for Best Original Score. Over the past two decades,  Perlman has become more actively involved in music education through his work with the Perlman Music Program and the Juilliard School, where he currently holds the Dorothy Richard Starling Foundation Chair.

Perlman was struck with polio at the age of 4 and permanently disabled, and today serves as an advocate for individuals with disabilities. He also teaches talented young musicians. A native of Israel, he came to the United States at a young age and was introduced to Americans broadly when he appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1958.

“I am humbled and honored to receive the Genesis Prize, recognizing not just my professional achievements and my desire to improve the world, but also my commitment to my Jewish identity, Jewish values, and Jewish culture,” Perlman said in a statement. “I have always been very proud of my Jewish heritage, which has greatly influenced my music, my world view, and my work as an advocate for individuals whom society often leaves behind.”

Perlman intends to direct the prize money to initiatives dealing with improving access for individuals with disabilities and developing young musicians of rare and special talent, according to the Genesis Prize Foundation.

The foundation was endowed by the Genesis Philanthropy Group, a consortium of wealthy philanthropists and businessmen from the former Soviet Union that includes Mikhail Fridman, Pyotr Aven and German Khan.

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