Outgoing Hillel head Wayne Firestone named president of Genesis Prize Foundation

NEW YORK (JTA) – Wayne Firestone, the former head of Hillel, was named president of the Genesis Prize Foundation.


Firestone’s new position was announced at a news conference in Boston on Wednesday.

The Genesis Prize was created last year with a $50 million endowment from three wealthy Russian Jews — Mikhail Fridman, Pyotr Aven and German Khan. It aims to honor individuals whose success has been informed by their Jewish values and comes with a $1 million prize.

“One of the exciting things about the prize is that it is endowed for perpetuity,” Firestone told JTA. “This was not just a prize de jour but a much larger statement that’s bigger than any organization, one that can engage the Jewish people in a conversation.”

Firestone said a pool of academics and community leaders around the world have begun submitting nominations for the award in a selection process emulating the MacArthur Fellowship. Their recommendations will be presented to a selection committee headed by Jewish Agency for Israel Chairman Natan Sharansky and a prize committee headed by Israeli Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein.

Committee members include Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, outgoing British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks and Meir Shamgar, president emeritus of Israel’s Supreme Court.

As the former head of a youth group, Firestone said he hoped to “introduce the laureate to young people, hosting and convening conversations about Jewish accomplishment and identity.”

He said the inaugural winner of the prize will be announced this fall and the ceremony will take place the following spring.

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