American comedian Jay Leno is heading to Israel to host the awards ceremony of the $1 million Genesis Prize in Jerusalem on May 22, 2014. Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has been chosen as the inaugural winner of “the Jewish Nobel Prize” for his years of public service and philanthropy.
Bloomberg has said he will use the prize money to promote economic ties between Israelis and Palestinians.
The prize committee wrote that Bloomberg was chosen from among more than 200 nominees because of his “track record of outstanding public service and his role as one of the world’s greatest philanthropists.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will join 400 high profile dignitaries – including business leaders, Nobel laureates, and major philanthropists and entertainers – in the audience.
Leno, who will be making his first visit to Israel, told the Associated Press that although entertainers are being asked to boycott trips to Israel, he sees his invitation to perform as “a great honor. It’s a great country. It’s a great people.”
While Leno will be the main entertainment draw, Hollywood Israeli actress Ayelet Zurer will share the stage with him, and Grammy-winning pianist Evgeny Kissin will also perform.
“We aspire for the Genesis Prize to have the same level of recognition and prestige as the leading prizes of the world, such as the Nobels, the Pulitzers, and MacArthur Awards. With Mayor Bloomberg as our inaugural laureate, we are well on our way to achieving this objective,“ said Stan Polovets, co-Founder and CEO of Genesis Philanthropy Group.