Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg will use his $1 million Genesis Prize to establish a new fellowship under the auspices of the Genesis Philanthropy Group, which will award him the prize.
Bloomberg is the first laureate of the Genesis Prize, which was established last year by a group of Jewish philanthropists in collaboration with the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office and the Jewish Agency for Israel. It will be awarded each year to someone the group believes will inspire young Jews through their work to improve the world.
The fellowship, to be called the Genesis Generations Challenge, was announced Thursday in Jerusalem, in advance of a ceremony awarding the Genesis Prize to Bloomberg. Applications for the $1 million fellowship will open Aug. 1 to anyone ages 20 to 36, and will go to the candidate with the best “big idea” to benefit the world, said Genesis Philanthropy Group President Wayne Firestone.
“We believe in Millenials,” Firestone said at a press conference Thursday. “We know they’re great communicators and collaborators. We hope their vision will create new learning to better the world.”
While the fellowship application will ask candidates about how Jewish values inspire them, non-Jews will be eligible.
The decision to turn the prize money into a Genesis-funded fellowship is a shift for Bloomberg, who pledged in December to contribute the money toward promoting Israeli-Palestinian economic collaboration. At the press conference Bloomberg said he deferred to the recommendation of the Genesis Philanthropy group in changing his decision.
“They know better than I what would be inspirational in Israel,” Bloomberg said. “It’s a long way from New York for me to make that decision.”
At the press conference and at an event earlier in the day with Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, Bloomberg struck a universalist tone, saying that Jewish values inspire him, but are shared by other religions as well.
“If you take a look at the other major religions, they have many of the same values,” he said. “It’s a question of how they instill those values in their congregants. No one religion has a lock on great people or terrible people. The values I learned from my parents are probably the same values I hope Christians and Muslims and Hindus and Buddhists teach to their people.”