Michael Douglas, Natan Sharansky to Discuss Jewish Inclusion and Anti-Semitism on Three College Campuses The actor and producer joins the human rights icon to discuss their 'Jewish Journeys' at Brown, Stanford and UCSB

NEW YORK, Jan. 20, 2016 /CNW/ -- The Genesis Prize Foundation today announced that renowned actor, producer, and UN Messenger of Peace Michael Douglas and former political prisoner, recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal, and Chairman of The Jewish Agency for Israel Natan Sharansky will appear on three US university campuses to speak with students about Israel and current-day anti-Semitism.

Douglas and Sharansky will visit Brown University on January 28, Stanford University on February 2, and the University of California at Santa Barbara on February 3. Pre-registration is required at each campus, with priority given to students. The program, "Jewish Journeys: A Conversation with Michael Douglas and Natan Sharansky," is co-hosted by the Genesis Prize Foundation, Hillel International, and The Jewish Agency for Israel, as well as the local Hillels on each campus - Brown RISD Hillel, Hillel at Stanford University and Santa Barbara Hillel. The panelists will also address the topic of tolerance and inclusion in the Jewish community worldwide.

In making the announcement, Genesis Prize Foundation Co-Founder and Chairman Stan Polovets said: "This is the first time, in this current period of heightened anti-Israel activity on campus, that a Hollywood celebrity has offered to join with a world Jewish leader to visit US college campuses and speak with students about Israel and the Jewish people. At a time when the academic community and other forces are making sustained efforts to delegitimize Israel, these visits are particularly important and timely."

Eric Fingerhut, President and CEO of Hillel International, praised the pair for bringing these pertinent issues to college campuses. "Hillel International works to share the Jewish community's diverse story and engage students in understanding and expressing their Jewish identity. Michael Douglas and Natan Sharansky will help students recognize that no matter where they came from, they are part of the Jewish community and have a role to play to ensure its future."

Fingerhut added, "Hillel is grateful to have been a beneficiary of Michael Douglas' initiative focused on intermarried families in Jewish life. Hillel International is committed to inspiring every Jewish student to make an enduring commitment to Jewish life, learning and Israel."

Hillel International is the largest Jewish campus organization in the world, operating on more than 550 campuses around the world.

As a human rights activist, Natan Sharansky fought for freedom in the Soviet Union and spent nine years in prison for his activism. Since immigrating to Israel in 1986, he has served as a minister in multiple Israeli governments and has distinguished himself as a leading voice for democracy, human rights, and Jewish unity. Over the past decade and a half, including in his current role as Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency for Israel, he has spoken to students on dozens of college campuses about the dangers of anti-Semitism and efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel.

"At a time when the new and old forms of anti-Semitism are coming together to undermine Israel's legitimacy and drive Jews apart from their Jewish identities and from one another, it is crucial that we emphasize the connection between our devotion to human rights, our commitment to peace, and our dedication to strengthening the unity of the Jewish people," said Sharansky. "Having had many opportunities to speak to students and young people about these fundamental issues, I am pleased to be sharing the stage with such an outstanding individual as Michael Douglas, and I look forward to our conversations with young people on campuses across America."

Michael Douglas was awarded the 2015 Genesis Prize in recognition of his decades-long career as an actor and producer, his work as a peace activist, and his unwavering support of Israel. He decided to dedicate his prize award to projects promoting the inclusion of intermarried families in Jewish life, the first of which was developed by Hillel International.

"I was honored to receive the Genesis Prize last year, and it has encouraged me to deepen my commitment and belief that we must all be more inclusive in order that the Jewish faith and culture thrive," shared Michael Douglas. "These visits provide an opportunity for Natan and me to speak directly with young people about the challenges they encounter, and share insight about how we have dealt with these situations throughout our life."  

The Genesis Prize – which Time magazine has called "The Jewish Nobel" – is a $1 million prize awarded annually to a renowned individual for achieving outstanding professional success, contributing to humanity, and demonstrating commitment to the Jewish people and Israel. The first awardee in 2014 was Michael R. Bloomberg, philanthropist, businessman, and former Mayor of New York City. World famous violist, advocate for individuals with disabilities, and Presidential Medal of Freedom winner Itzhak Perlman is the 2016 Genesis Prize Laureate.

Both Douglas and Bloomberg chose to defer their prize award, so the funds could be channeled to philanthropic causes of significance to them; Douglas is promoting engagement of intermarried families in Jewish life, and Bloomberg's award was used to fund a competition to support ideas from young entrepreneurs to better the world. Perlman has stated he also plans to defer the funds, and will announce details in February 2016.

Campus Tour Details

  • Brown University
    Thursday, January 28 at 7:30 p.m.
  • Stanford University
    Tuesday, February 2 at 7:30 p.m.
  • University of California at Santa Barbara
    Wednesday, February 3 at 7:30 p.m.

Media should RSVP to Samantha Kupferman at samantha@westendstrategy.com.

About The Genesis Prize

The Genesis Prize seeks to recognize individuals who have attained excellence and international renown in their chosen professional fields, and who inspire others through their engagement and dedication to the Jewish community and the State of Israel. The Prize — funded through a $100 million endowment established by the Genesis Prize Foundation and awarded by the Prime Minister of Israel — was established by a unique partnership among the Office of the Prime Minister of the State of Israel, Genesis Prize Foundation, and the Office of the Chairman of The Jewish Agency for Israel. 

The Genesis Prize Laureate is selected from a list of candidates nominated by leaders of hundreds of institutions and organizations worldwide, including leading universities, major foundations, Fortune 500 corporations, international NGO's and top Jewish organizations. Upon receipt of the nominations for the Prize, the Selection Committee, headed by the Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency for Israel (currently Natan Sharansky), selects a short list of candidates and the Prize Committee, headed by Knesset Speaker (currently Yuli Edelstein), selects the Laureate. More information is available at www.genesisrprize.org.

About Hillel
Founded in 1923, Hillel has been enriching the lives of Jewish students for more than 90 years. Today, Hillel International is a global organization that welcomes students of all backgrounds and fosters an enduring commitment to Jewish life, learning and Israel. Hillel is dedicated to enriching the lives of Jewish students so that they may enrich the Jewish people and the world. As the largest Jewish student organization in the world, Hillel builds connections with emerging adults at more than 550 colleges and universities, and inspires them to direct their own path. During their formative college years, students are challenged to explore, experience, and create vibrant Jewish lives. www.hillel.org

About the Jewish Agency for Israel
Based in Jerusalem, The Jewish Agency for Israel is the largest Jewish nonprofit organization in the world. Since 1929, the organization has worked to secure a vibrant Jewish future and has brought more than three million Jews home to Israel. The Jewish Agency was instrumental in founding and building the State of Israel and continues to serve as the main link between the Jewish state and Jewish communities around the world. Today, the organization connects the global Jewish family, bringing Jews to Israel, and Israel to Jews. The Jewish Agency builds a better society in Israel and beyond, energizing young Israelis and their worldwide peers to rediscover a collective sense of Jewish purpose. The Jewish Agency continues to be the Jewish world's first responder, prepared to rescue and bring Jews home to Israel from countries where they are at-risk. www.jewishagency.org

SOURCE The Genesis Prize Foundation

For further information: Samantha Kupferman, West End Strategy Team, samantha@westendstrategy.com; Office: (212) 498-9300; Cell: (202) 215-9260, http://www.genesisrprize.org

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