Philanthropist doubles Natalie Portman’s $1 million ‘Jewish Nobel’

Philanthropist doubles Natalie Portman’s $1 million ‘Jewish Nobel’

Morris Kahn's donation to Israel-born actress will be used as grants for projects advancing women's rights

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Philanthropist Morris Kahn, left, Genesis Prize Laureate Natalie Portman, center, and Stan Polovets, co-founder and Chairman of the Genesis Prize Foundation. (Genesis Foundation)
Philanthropist Morris Kahn, left, Genesis Prize Laureate Natalie Portman, center, and Stan Polovets, co-founder and Chairman of the Genesis Prize Foundation. (Genesis Foundation)

An Israeli philanthropist has added $1 million to the 2018 Genesis Prize awarded to actress Natalie Portman, doubling the prize money amount.

The Israeli-born movie star has said the funds will be donated to projects that advance women’s rights and social equality.

South African-born Morris Kahn increased the bonus money on top of the $1 million awarded to Portman in November, the Genesis Prize Foundation said in a statement Tuesday.

“I would like to express my gratitude and admiration to Morris Kahn for his incredible support of the 2018 Genesis Prize theme,” Portman said in the statement. “Morris’ generosity once again reinforces how relevant and important the issue of women’s equality is today – in Israel, in the US and beyond.”

Kahn said he made the donation to support Portman in her “noble undertaking.”

“The Genesis Prize is known for focusing its philanthropy on issues that are both relevant and timely; the issue of women’s equality and empowerment is, without a doubt, one of them,” he added. “I believe that the outstanding Jewish role model Ms. Portman and the Genesis Prize Foundation together are well positioned to make a difference and drive meaningful change. It is an honor to be a part of this effort.”

Kahn was born in South Africa and moved to Israel in 1956. Among other enterprises, he founded the high-tech company Amdocs and Coral World International, a group of aquariums around the world that includes the underwater observatory in Eilat.

The billionaire also supports a range of projects, including the nonprofit Save a Child’s Heart that provides cardiac surgery for children in developing countries, as well as research in cancer stem cell and fertility treatments.

Sanusey, a Gambian four-year-old who underwent life-saving heart surgery in Israel (Stella Shalhevet / Save a Child’s Heart)

Kahn already made a gift to the Genesis foundation earlier this year when he added to the prize of 2017 laureate artist Anish Kapoor, who donated his cash to helping refugees. The statement didn’t specify how much Kahn’s addition was but noted that the contribution was used to fund treatment of hearing loss among Syrian children in war zones who were brought to Ziv Medical Center in Israel.

During the course of the Syrian civil war the IDF has operated a humanitarian aid effort that brings Syrian war wounded and children in need of medical attention to Israel for treatment, as well as providing food, medical supplies, and other basic needs.

Portman was awarded the Genesis prize in November. She joined Kapoor, violinist Itzhak Perlman, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and actor-director Michael Douglas as a recipient of the award, which honors individuals who serve as an inspiration to the next generation of Jews through their outstanding professional achievement and commitment to Jewish values and to the Jewish people.

The funds from Portman’s prize will be used for grants to organizations involved in promoting women’s educational opportunities, economic advancement, health and safety, and full participation in policy formulation and political activity. A significant portion of the funds will go to programs advancing women’s equality in Israel, the foundation said in November after announcing the prize.

Her award ceremony will be held in Jerusalem on June 28, 2018.

JTA contributed to this report.

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