Natan Sharansky. (Hillel Maeir/TPS) Hillel Maeir/TPS


In line with the tradition established by previous recipients of the Prize, Sharansky has chosen to forgo the award, and the Genesis Prize will donate the funds in his honor to nonprofit organizations.


The Genesis Prize Foundation (GPF) announced Monday that Natan Sharansky is the 2020 Genesis Prize Laureate.

The annual $1 million award honors “extraordinary individuals who serve as an inspiration to the next generation of Jews through their outstanding professional achievement, commitment to Jewish values and to the Jewish people.”

The prestigious award has been dubbed the “Jewish Nobel Prize.” Sharansky is the first person living in residing in Israel to be awarded the Genesis.

In choosing Sharansky from a list of 250 nominees, the Selection Committee highlighted “his extraordinary lifelong struggle for political and religious freedoms, emphasizing the relevance of his work in today’s world.”

Sharansky is the first living non-US citizen to receive both the Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, and Pope John Paul II were the only other non-Americans to receive both honors.

Sharansky becomes the 8th Genesis Prize honoree. Previous Genesis honorees include New York City Mayor and current US presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg, US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Israeli-born actress Natalie Portman.

Sharansky first gained global renown in the 1970s as a leader of Jews who demanded that the USSR allow them to immigrate to Israel. Arrested for his challenge to the Soviet regime, he spent nine years incarcerated as a Prisoner of Conscience, much of it in solitary confinement, refusing to disavow his demands.

Sharansky was released in 1986 and made Aliyah to Israel following an intense international pressure campaign led by world Jewry and spearheaded by his wife Avital.

Sharansky stated he was “humbled by this honor” and thanked the Genesis Prize Foundation for “recognizing my work to promote democracy, rule of law, and human rights.”

Sharansky will be honored at the Genesis Prize Ceremony in Jerusalem in June.

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