Michael Douglas accepts doubled Genesis Prize
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Michael Douglas accepts doubled Genesis Prize

Veteran actor laughs, tears up during lavish ‘Jewish Nobel’ ceremony

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

From left to right: Comedian Jay Leno, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Genesis cofounder Stan Polovets, Michael Douglas, Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky, and Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein at the Genesis Prize ceremony at the Jerusalem Theater, June 18, 2015 (Marc Israel Sellem/Flash90)
From left to right: Comedian Jay Leno, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Genesis cofounder Stan Polovets, Michael Douglas, Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky, and Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein at the Genesis Prize ceremony at the Jerusalem Theater, June 18, 2015 (Marc Israel Sellem/Flash90)

There was singing, there was dancing, there was a personal message from Barbra Streisand.

There were also comedian Jay Leno, model Bar Refaeli and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on hand to present Michael Douglas with the Genesis Prize 2015 at a lavish ceremony on Thursday night.

The prize, awarded by the Genesis Foundation, was increased to $2 million from $1 million, Leno announced at the end of the ceremony, thanks to the addition of another philanthropist to the group of Russian-Jewish donors who founded the group as a partnership with the Prime Minister’s Office and the Jewish Agency.

Douglas seemed genuinely moved by the now-$2 million award, which he said he plans to give to the Jewish Funders’ Network and to Hillel International, the Foundation for Jewish Campus Life.

“I am a Jew,” he said at the start of his acceptance speech. “Those are four words of pride. My Jewishness is as deep as my genes,” he said, referring to his 97-year-old father, Kirk.

He thanked his father, and his son, Dylan, for reminding him of his Jewish roots, and spoke of his father’s second bar mitzvah at age 80, and his son’s, last summer, in Jerusalem.

One of the performances during Thursday night's Genesis Prize ceremony (Marc Israel Sellem/Flash 90)
One of the performances during Thursday night’s Genesis Prize ceremony (Marc Israel Sellem/Flash90)

Now his daughter Carys will celebrate her bat mitzvah next year, said Douglas.

He referred to a midrash — a Jewish interpretative story — about the tradition of hospitality introduced by Abraham in his family tent, and said his tent is made up of three generations of Douglases, including his wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and their two children.

Zeta-Jones, Dylan Douglas and Carys Douglas were all present at the ceremony. As parts of Broadway musicals were performed onstage, members of Douglas’s family sat watching next to Netanyahu, his wife Sara, and other members of the Genesis team.

Carys Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Dylan Douglas, Michael Douglas, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Sara Netanyahu and Natan Sharansky at the Genesis Prize Ceremony, June 18, 2015 (Marc Israel Sellem/Flash 90)
Carys Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Dylan Douglas, Michael Douglas, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Sara Netanyahu and Natan Sharansky at the Genesis Prize ceremony, June 18, 2015 (Marc Israel Sellem/Flash90)

While Leno was flown in to be the master of ceremonies, lobbing jokes about the Israeli voting system, Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt and Israeli politicians — “They asked me to do a show for inmates but I said no, I’m seeing enough politicians tonight” — it was Douglas who got the last laugh.

“I want to thank Jay and Bar for being here tonight,” he said. “But Jay probably has another gig at the Laugh Factory.”

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