JERUSALEM – Natalie Portman 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, organizers of the prize announced on Tuesday.
The $1 million award, known as “the Jewish Nobel Prize,” is granted each year to a person recognized as an inspiration to the next generation of Jews through professional achievement and commitment to Jewish values.
The Oscar-winning actress said she was “deeply touched and humbled” by the recognition.
“I am proud of my Israeli roots and Jewish heritage. They are crucial parts of who I am,” she said in a statement released by the organizers. She said she would use the prize money to “make a difference in the lives of women in Israel and beyond.”
Portman was born in Israel and moved to the United States as a young girl, evolving from a child actress into a widely acclaimed A-list star. 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 made in Israel based on an Amos Oz novel.
The Genesis Prize noted Portman’s social activism in areas such as gender equality, combatting poverty, microfinance and animal rights.
“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 make the world a better place,” said Stan Polovets, co-founder and chairman of the prize’s foundation. 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.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to present the award to Portman at a ceremony in Jerusalem 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 non-profit 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.