Sharansky Genesis Prize Funds Help Jewish Care Fight COVID-19

Jewish Care chosen to receive Sharansky Genesis Prize funds to alleviate coronavirus suffering
Genesis, in partnership with Start-Up Nation Central, to award additional prizes to Israeli companies working to defeat COVID-19

May 4, 2020

Legendary human rights activist Natan Sharansky has chosen Jewish Care as one of 15 charities to receive support through the prestigious $1million Genesis Prize. Former Chair of the Jewish Agency for Israel, Sharansky was awarded the prize in December, and chose to direct the funds to organisations fighting the coronavirus pandemic and supporting individuals most affected by it.

The funds will be used to purchase protective equipment for staff engaged in providing support to vulnerable residents in care homes including those receiving end of life care. The grant will supplement Jewish Care’s emergency COVID-19 appeal, launched to support the increased demands and challenges for care providers during the coronavirus crisis.

The Genesis Prize Foundation (GPF) announced today the names of all 15 recipients of this year’s Genesis Prize grants.

Natan Sharansky said: “Many people of good will around the world have given generously to help organisations and individuals who have been devastated by COVID-19; I am grateful to have the opportunity to contribute to this humanitarian effort. Throughout the long history of the Jewish people, our ability to come together as one during the times of crisis - to unite and help each other - gave us strength to persevere and face the future with hope and confidence. That’s why I cannot think of a better way to use the Genesis Prize money than to fund those who are fighting the coronavirus epidemic, both in Israel and around the world.” 

Daniel Carmel-Brown, Chief Executive of Jewish Care, said: “We are hugely appreciative of the generous support from Mr Sharansky and the Genesis Prize Fund. This wonderful gift will help Jewish Care to continue supporting our staff who are looking after the most vulnerable and elderly members of our community during this Covid-19 crisis. Knowing that we have partners alongside us gives us strength and hope at this challenging time.”

Prominent Israeli philanthropist and chairman of SpaceIL lunar mission Morris Kahn, who contributed additional funds in honor of Natan Sharansky, said: “We are not only battling to save the lives of those infected by COVID-19; the harsh reality has threatened the lives of many, including victims of domestic violence and those less fortunate in need of medical attention. Mr. Sharansky is an example of a true believer in life and the bounty of life, his decision to grant these important

organizations is the core of the Jewish values – to be compassionate and help ease the pain of others.”

Stan Polovets, Co-Founder and Chairman of The Genesis Prize Foundation said: “The selection of Natan Sharansky as the 2020 Genesis Prize Laureate coincided with the beginning of the worst pandemic faced by humanity in the past one hundred years. Natan strongly felt that the most positive impact he could have as the Genesis Prize Laureate is to donate his $1 million prize in its entirety to organizations combating coronavirus and helping individuals most impacted by this vicious, invisible enemy.”

 Genesis Co-Founder Polovets noted that some of the grants will deliver immediate relief to those most affected; others will seed longer-term advances against the disease. The former group includes Israeli organisation 1221 Assistance for All – an emergency support service for all residents of Jerusalem (an alliance of United Hatzalah, Lev Echad, and Israel Association of Community Centers); ALEH Negev, working with children with severe disabilities; Association of Rape Centers of Israel, responding to a 40% increase in domestic violence cases; Hillel and Moishe House, supporting isolated elderly in Europe and the Former Soviet Union.

Among the projects with a longer-term focus are grants to Israel’s Weizmann Institute’s research programme to develop a coronavirus vaccine, and two leading US universities, Columbia and New York University (NYU). The grant to Columbia University Irving Medical Center provides seed funds for researchers to develop new treatments, while the grant to NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering funds a competition for undergraduate and graduate students to address the acute engineering challenges presented by the coronavirus, including creating “zero contact” hardware, such as doors and payment systems.

Israeli Companie to be honoured

In addition to the fifteen grants, Genesis announced a special competition in honour of Sharansky, which will recognize Israeli companies working to combat COVID-19 and mitigate the damage from future pandemics. Start-Up Nation Central, an NGO founded by philanthropist Paul Singer, will run the competition in partnership with GPF to promote Israeli innovation globally. GPF and Start-Up Nation Central will award prizes to selected Israeli companies, which either have made significant contributions to the effort to fight COVID-19 or are working on promising technologies, therapies, or vaccines that have the potential to provide significant benefits in the near future. Winners of the competition, to be held in the summer, will donate their prize funds to the charities of their choice.

Isaac Herzog, Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel and Chairman of the Genesis Prize Selection Committee, said: “I admire Natan’s decision to donate his award in this hour of profound need. The range of projects selected for Genesis Prize grants is strategic, comprehensive and addresses the need for immediate humanitarian relief as well as preparedness for the challenges of tomorrow. The Jewish Agency is honoured to partner with Natan and the Genesis Prize in this 2020 philanthropic programme.”  

Additional Information About The Grants

The 2020 Genesis Prize grants announced today will support a total of 15 NGOs and institutions working in the humanitarian, social, scientific and medical fields to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and advance the recovery.

 In Israel, grants in honour of Sharansky will fund nine organisations working to help the vulnerable and advance medical and scientific innovation. These include:

  • 1221 Assistance for all, an emergency response service in Jerusalem helping both Jews and non-Jews affected by the coronavirus epidemic – an alliance of United Hatzalah, Lev Echad, and Israel Association of Community Centers;
  • Association of Rape Crisis Centers of Israel, which will utilize the grant to hire additional staff as it works to mitigate a 40% increase in domestic violence during the lockdown;
  • ALEH Negev, supporting the most isolated and vulnerable populations on the country’s periphery, including children with severe disabilities; additional staff will be hired to replace volunteers unable to work due to coronavirus;
  • TEREM Public Clinic, providing medical services to the residents of South Tel Aviv, many of whom are not covered by government medical plans;
  • Enosh Israeli Mental Health Organization, to hire additional professionals speaking Russian, Amharit, English and Arabic to respond to the increased mental health caseload;
  • Migdal Ohr, supporting high-risk Israeli prisoners sent home to reduce crowding in Israeli prisons because of coronavirus;
  • Two projects in partnership with the Jewish Agency for Israel – through volunteer service by young adults at Machon Shlichim working with the elderly and at-risk youth hit by coronavirus and by funding interest-free loans for struggling Israeli NGOs through Ogen;
  • The Weizmann Institute which will use the grant to fund research to develop the COVID-19 vaccine.

Beyond Israel, Genesis Prize grants will support projects in eight countries, including:

Italy, France, Russia, and Spain: Expanding volunteer activities to help the isolated and elderly members of the Jewish communities affected by COVID-19 in Rome, Madrid, Paris, and Moscow (grantee: Moishe House);

Ukraine and Belarus: Providing support to the most vulnerable community members by 130 Hillel student volunteers working in six cities in Ukraine and Belarus to Jewish elderly and homebound (grantee: Hillel);

United States: Funding research to mitigate medical complications of coronavirus by medical staff at Columbia University Irving Medical Center and a competition to for students at New York University Tandon School of Engineering to solve physical challenges presented by COVID-19; supporting the Hebrew Free Loan Fund of NY to help with the overwhelming increase in requests for loans due to coronavirus-related financial hardships, including lay-offs;

UK: Providing personal protective equipment to staff engaged in giving care and support to vulnerable residents in care homes including those receiving end of life care. (Jewish Care)


The annual Genesis Prize, dubbed the “Jewish Nobel” by TIME Magazine, honours extraordinary individuals for their outstanding professional achievement, contribution to humanity, and commitment to Jewish values. Legendary Jewish leader and activist Natan Sharansky was announced in December 2019 as the 8th Genesis Prize Honoree in recognition of his life-long advocacy for human rights, democracy, service to the Jewish people and the State of Israel.

 Launched in 2013, the Prize is financed through a permanent endowment of $100 million established by The Genesis Prize Foundation.

Previous Genesis Prize laureates are former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg; actor, producer and peace activist Michael Douglas; virtuoso violinist and advocate for individuals with special needs Itzhak Perlman; sculptor and advocate for the rights of refugees Sir Anish Kapoor; Oscar-winning actress and social activist Natalie Portman; and owner of New England Patriots and founder of the leading foundation to combat anti-Semitism Robert Kraft. In 2018, the Genesis Prize Foundation honoured U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with its inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award for her contribution to social justice and equal rights.

All laureates have selected causes that are important to them, and award funds in their honour have been donated to these causes. These initiatives have included support of social entrepreneurship based on Jewish values, inclusiveness of intermarried families in Jewish life, improving the lives of individuals with special needs, helping to alleviate the global refugee crisis, advancing women’s equality, and combatting anti-Semitism and efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel.