New $3 million initiative for Jewish disabled honors Itzhak Perlman

Itzhak Perlman appearing on

Itzhak Perlman appearing on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” at Rockefeller Center in New York City, Feb. 25, 2011. (Theo Wargo/Getty Images)

(JTA) — The Genesis Prize Foundation and the Jewish Funders Network launched a $3 million matching grant program to fund an initiative to promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in Jewish life.

The “Breaking Barriers” program launched Monday in honor of 2016 Genesis Prize laureate Itzhak Perlman will promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of Jewish communal life. It echoes Perlman’s lifelong dedication to educating society about doing more to enable people with disabilities to use their strengths and realize their potential.

The funds for the program will be distributed in both North America and Israel, according to the Genesis Prize Foundation and the Jewish Funders Network.

Perlman, 70, an acclaimed violinist, educator and advocate for individuals with disabilities, was diagnosed with polio at 4 and gets around with a motorized cart.


When he was awarded the Genesis Prize in Jerusalem in June, Perlman pledged to use the $1 million award to benefit programs for people with disabilities. The Genesis Prize has been dubbed the “Jewish Nobel.” It is given to individuals who have achieved professional success, made a significant contribution to humanity and inspired others through their engagement and dedication to the Jewish community and the State of Israel.

This is the second matching grant collaboration between the Genesis Prize Foundation and Jewish Funders Network. The 2015 “Avenues to Jewish Engagement for Intermarried Couples and their Families” program was established last year in honor of the 2015 Genesis Prize Laureate Michael Douglas, and generated $3.3 million in new funds. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was the first Genesis laureate in 2014.

“I am honored to be part of ’Breaking Barriers’,” said Perlman in a statement, “And to have the opportunity to encourage other funders to join this critical initiative so that each person, regardless of his or her abilities, will have the opportunity to maximize their potential and to participate as full members of the community. This is a great opportunity to open more doors and accept all who choose to enter.”

In November, Perlman received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from U.S. President Barack Obama. He has won 16 Grammys.

The Genesis Prize is endowed by the Genesis Philanthropy Group, which endeavors to build Jewish identity among Russian-speaking Jews worldwide.