Itzhak Perlman Shares Genesis Prize with Yiddish Book Center

Gift Will Support Yiddish Education and Oral History

When world-renowned violinist Itzhak Perlman recently received a $1 million Genesis Prize, he opted to defer the award to organizations devoted to causes that are important to him—among them, the Yiddish Book Center. The Center received $50,000 from Perlman’s prize to support its work on Yiddish language instruction and oral history.

Perlman is the third Genesis Prize Laureate. Each year, the Genesis Prize Foundation awards the $1 million prize to an individual who has “attained excellence and international renown in their chosen professional fields, and who inspire others through their engagement and dedication to the Jewish community and/or the State of Israel.”

“Itzhak has achieved unparalleled professional success, and through his music brings joy to millions of people around the world,” Stan Polovets, chair and cofounder of the Genesis Prize, said in announcing the honor. “A sixteen-time Grammy award winner, he has been an incredible source of inspiration for individuals with special needs by overcoming tremendous personal challenges.”

Perlman is using his Genesis Prize award to support programs in the fields of music and culture and to projects that promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of society. A portion of the money directed to the Yiddish Book Center will support its flagship Steiner Summer Yiddish Program, an intensive Yiddish language and culture program for college and graduate students. The remainder will go to the Center’s Wexler Oral History Project, a growing collection of in-depth interviews with people of all ages and backgrounds, whose stories offer a rich and complex chronicle of Jewish identity.

“Mr. Perlman has been a friend of the Yiddish Book Center for many years,” said Aaron Lansky, the organization’s founder and president. “He served as honorary campaign chairperson when we built our first building in 1997. Now, through this latest gift, he is helping to bring Yiddish learning to students at the Center and beyond our walls.”

The annual Genesis Prize is administered by a partnership of the Genesis Foundation, the Prime Minister of the State of Israel, and the Office of the Chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Agency for Israel, with the mission of inspiring “unity throughout the global Jewish community.” The previous Genesis Prize Laureates were actor Michael Douglas, who deferred his prize money to projects that support diversity and inclusiveness in Judaism, and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who directed the prize to a social entrepreneurship competition for young adults, the Genesis Generation Challenge.

—Maureen Turner