Violinist Itzhak Perlman wins 'Jewish Nobel'

JERUSALEM -- Israeli-American violinist Itzhak Perlman has been awarded this year's "Jewish Nobel" for his accomplishments as a musician, teacher and advocate for the disabled, organizers of the $1 million prize announced Monday.

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The Genesis Prize is given each year to an individual who has achieved professional success, contributed to humanity and shown a strong commitment to Jewish causes and the state of Israel.

Perlman said he was "humbled" to be recognized not only for his personal accomplishments, but also his commitment to his Jewish identity.

"I have always been very proud of my Jewish heritage, which has greatly influenced my music, my world view, and my work as an advocate for individuals whom society often leaves behind," he said in a statement issued by the prize organizers.

Perlman, 70, has won 16 Grammys, including a lifetime achievement award in 2008, and played the violin solo in John Williams' Oscar-winning soundtrack for the 1993 film "Schindler's List." He has performed with or conducted the world's top symphony orchestras, and has been a regular guest at White House events. Last month, he received the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honour.

Perlman has shared his love of music with diverse audiences, appearing on late-night comedy programs, Sesame Street and in special programs on American public television. With his wife Toby, he helps run the Perlman Music Program for talented young musicians. Treated for polio as a child, Perlman, who walks with crutches, has also been a vocal advocate for the disabled.

Perlman intends to use his prize money for projects to assist individuals with disabilities and to develop young musicians of special talent, prize organizers said.

"Itzhak Perlman is the embodiment of everything an ideal Genesis Prize Laureate should be," said Stan Polovets, chairman and co-founder of the prize.

He said Perlman's music "brings joy to millions of people," and that Perlman has been "an incredible source of inspiration" for people with special needs and "given back to society" with his teaching and advocacy work.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is slated to present the award to Perlman at the June 23 ceremony in Jerusalem.

The 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 nonprofit group with close ties to the Israeli government. It is funded by a $100 million endowment established by the foundation.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was the recipient of the first prize, and actor Michael Douglas was this year's winner.


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