“It is too small a thing for you to be My servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that My salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:6)
Last week, former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg announced nine recipients of the Genesis Generation Challenge, a competition supporting innovative projects guided by Jewish values to address the world’s pressing issues.
Each team of young adults selected as a winner of the Genesis Generation Challenge is awarded $100,000 to help implement their sustainable and scalable solution to an important problem. The teams are also matched with a mentor to help develop the project.
Bloomberg launched the Genesis Generation Challenge using the million dollar Genesis Prize money he was awarded last year by Israel.
With his winnings, he created nine $100,000 prizes for projects. The winning projects focus on areas such as public health, education and cross-cultural exchanges with a view to encouraging tolerance and alleviating poverty, among other issues.
The winning projects are the following:
- Build Israel and Palestine (BIP), whose goal is to bring together Jewish and Muslim Millennials to work on infrastructure projects in Israel and Judea and Samaria—the first being converting sewage to usable water in partnership with Arava of Israel;
- Building Up (Canada), installs energy efficient technology in affordable housing complexes while providing training in practical trades for Toronto-based workers who have high barriers to employment entry;
- Prize4Life (Israel), is developing an app for tracking markers of the motor neuron disease ALS.
- eNable 3D (Israel), is offering free 3D-printed prosthetics to underserved populations in Haiti;
- LAVAN (Israel), is creating a US community of angel investors and educators to support entrepreneurial projects that deliver life-changing products and services to the world’s poor, sick, and marginalized;
- Sanergy (Kenya), is a social enterprise founded on novel sanitation projects to be implemented among the slums of Nairobi;
- Sesame (Israel), is developing a smartphone for those without the use of their hands;
- Spark (Burundi), a fund providing micro-grants to design, implement, and manage social projects by and for poor communities; and
Vera Solutions (United States, India),
which aims to train the next generation of data specialists, driving innovations in database technology in order to streamline social organizations and allow them to make better decisions.
About these projects, Bloomberg said, “Some of the projects will exceed every expectation. Others will not—they may be dismal failures. But every one of them deserves a shot.”
During the event, Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel called on Jews to “do something about their Jewishness.”
“We believe that to be Jewish is not simply a matter of birth. We must do something with it, with ourselves,” said Wiesel at the Bloomberg Philanthropies townhouse office on New York’s Upper East Side.
“It doesn’t mean that the Jew is better than anyone else,” said Wiesel. “It simply means, because I am a Jew, I have to do something with my Jewishness. It is the Jew in me who works for human rights … the Jew in me who believes that racism is stupid. Not only evil, but stupid.” (Algemeiner)
Actor Michael Douglas, who attended the ceremony, will be the recipient of Israel’s 2015 Genesis prize in June.
Bloomberg described Douglas as “an outspoken voice against nuclear disarmament and for the protection of children.”
Douglas, who is the product of an interfaith marriage between his Jewish father, actor Kirk Douglas, and his non-Jewish mother, actress Diana Love Dill, said he will put his million-dollar prize to work on “interfaith marriage and other tolerance issues.”
Last year, his teenage son endured an anti-Semitic verbal attack, which Douglas wrote about in the Los Angeles Times.
“For me this is just a wonderful surprise in my 70th year,” Douglas told JTA. “I am continuously discovering just the breadth and the depth of the interfaith issue, and I’m looking forward to addressing it.”