The Oscar-winning actress Natalie Portman on Tuesday has been awarded Israel’s 2018 Genesis Prize in recognition of her commitment to social causes and deep connection to her Jewish and Israeli roots.
The annual $1 million award, known as “the Jewish Nobel Prize,” honors individuals recognized as an inspiration to the next generation of Jews through professional achievement and commitment to Jewish values.
The actress said she was “deeply touched and humbled” by the recognition, Natalie Portman said in a statement released by the organizers.
Portman said she would use the prize money to “make a difference in the lives of women in Israel and beyond.”
The A-list star was born in Israel and moved to the United States as a young girl, evolving from a child actress into a world-renowned Holywood figure. She is a graduate of Harvard University, where she returned to deliver a commencement speech in May 2015.
As leading actress she won the 2011 Best Actress Academy Award for her work in “Black Swan,” and in 2015, she directed and starred in “Tale of Love and Darkness,” a Hebrew-language film based on Israeli author Amos Oz’s novel.
She also won two Golden Globe Awards, the British Academy of Film and Television Award, as well as other industry honors.
The Genesis Prize noted Portman’s social activism in areas such as gender equality, combatting poverty, microfinance, and animal rights.
Natalie Portman said: “I am deeply touched and humbled by this honor, as it exemplifies the Jewish value of Tikkun Olam, or ‘mending the world’. I am proud of my Israeli roots and my Jewish heritage; they are crucial parts of who I am. It is such a privilege to be counted among the outstanding Laureates whom I admire so much. I express my heartfelt gratitude to the Genesis Prize Foundation, and look forward to using the global platform it provides to make a difference in the lives of women in Israel and beyond.”
“I am particularly inspired by the opportunity to make an impact on women’s issues in Israel,” added Portman. “Israel has already achieved much in terms of social and economic development, education and science, and we can all be rightfully proud of it as Jews. And yet, there is much that can be done to advance equal opportunity for women in this society. Increasing women’s participation makes a country stronger and I look forward to fostering more positive change in this area.”
“Natalie’s charismatic on-screen presence has touched the hearts of millions,” said Stan Polovets, co-founder, and Chairman of the Genesis Prize Foundation. “Her talent, her commitment to social causes and her deep connection to her Jewish and Israeli roots are greatly admired. She exemplifies the core traits of the Jewish character and values of the Jewish people – persistence and hard work, pursuit of excellence, intellectual curiosity, and a heartfelt desire to contribute to making the world a better place.”
He called her a “role model” for millions of young Jews worldwide.
The foundation said Portman’s award money would go to a number of women’s causes, promoting education, economic advancement, health and political participation. It said a “significant portion” of the funds would advance women’s equality in Israel.
The ceremony in Jerusalem is expected in next June.
The Genesis Prize was inaugurated in 2014 and is run in a partnership between the Israeli prime minister’s office, the private Genesis Prize Foundation and the chairman’s office of the Jewish Agency, a nonprofit group with close ties to the Israeli government. It is funded by a $100 million endowment established by the foundation.
Portman is the fifth winner and first woman to receive the prize. Previous recipients included former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, actor Michael Douglas, violinist Itzhak Perlman and sculptor Anish Kapoor.