JERUSALEM (JTA) — New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft announced the establishment of a foundation dedicated to combating anti-Semitism as he accepted the Genesis Prize award in Jerusalem on Thursday.
In addition to the $1 million he received along with the prize, Kraft is putting $20 million of his own money towards the project, to be called the Foundation for Social Media Messaging Against Anti-Semitism. It is also receiving funding through two $5 million gifts, one of which was pledged by Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich.
“In combating the scourge of anti-Semitism, my solemn ambition is to counter all forms of intolerance in the spirit of the ancient Jewish value of tikkun olam – to heal and repair the world,” Kraft, 78, said.
Some 600 people, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and 15 past and present Patriots players and their spouses, attended the ceremony at the Jerusalem Theater.
Comedian Martin Short, who emceed the evening, skewered Israeli politicians, American politicians and last year’s winner, Natalie Portman, who declined to come to Israel to accept the prize in 2018. She said she did not want to appear to endorse Israeli Netanyahu, whose policies she disagrees with.
“At least this year’s honoree showed up,” Short said at the beginning of the program. He peered around the packed Jerusalem theater and asked: “If all the rich and powerful Jews are here, who is controlling the media?”
Kraft was expected to be a safer choice as the recipient of what has been called the Jewish Nobel. In February, however, Kraft was accused of soliciting a prostitute at a massage parlor in Florida, and is fighting the charges, though he issued a vague apology after his arrest. The Genesis board decided to stand behind him, although one advisory member resigned over the scandal.
Short didn’t mention the case, which is still ongoing.