Patriots Owner Robert Kraft Receives 2019 ‘Jewish Nobel’ (with VIDEO)
Supporters say his generosity and Jewish pride make him a deserving winner
Robert Kraft, the 77-year-old New England Patriots owner, businessman and philanthropist received a standing ovation from the crowd as he took to the stage at the Jerusalem Theater to accept the Genesis Prize. Often referred to as the “Jewish Nobel Prize,” the honor is given to members to Jews who have dedicated themselves to their community and strengthened the bond between the Diaspora and Israel.
Every year, the recipient of the award donates the $1 million in prize money to charity. For his part, Kraft has allocated the funds to more than a dozen groups that work to combat anti-Semitism.
During his acceptance speech, Kraft announced that he is creating an organization called “The Foundation for Social Media Messaging Against Anti-Semitism,” to which he has committed $20 million in total. Overall, Kraft has contributed nearly half a billion dollars to charities and is one of the largest donors to Jewish and Israeli causes.
Genesis Prize President Steven Rakitt told The Media Line that Kraft was chosen out of 250 potential nominees. He also said that board members did not second-guess their choice after Kraft in March was charged with two counts of soliciting prostitution in Florida.
“We take the [250 nominees] down to approximately 15 and then select five,” Rakitt explained. “The prize committee has illustrious people on it, including [a] former president of [Israel’s] Supreme Court and others with impeccable credentials. They look through the five names and choose the [individual] that truly represents the values of the foundation, [someone] committed to Jewish values [and] very successful in their chosen career,” he said.
The first-ever Genesis Prize was in 2014 given to former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Last year, Natalie Portman was chosen, however, she refused to attend the ceremony, citing what she deemed as negative political and security developments in Israel.
One of the initiatives Kraft is supporting is the March of the Living, during which youth are taken to Poland to witness for themselves the remnants of Nazi concentration camps. They are then brought to Israel to tour the country, many of them for the first time.
“In a world where a lot of people downplay their Judaism, especially when you come from a place of prominence and it’s not always acceptable to be such a Zionist, [Kraft] is not afraid,” Lori Palatmik, founding director of Momentum, an organization that brings Jewish mothers to Israel, told The Media Line.
“And he stands up for Jewish values,” she added.
The evening’s host was American comedian and actor Martin Short, who poked fun at Portman’s decision to forego last year’s event. ‘For starters,” he quipped, “this year’s honoree showed up.”
Short also peppered the audience with nuanced jokes about Israeli culture, and even fired some shots (in jest) at Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who was on hand to present the award.