Naming the American-Israeli actress and director as the fifth-ever and first female laureate of the award known as the "Jewish Nobel Prize," the Genesis Prize Foundation (GPF) praised on Tuesday Natalie Portman for being a "role model for millions of young Jews world around the world."
The GPF praised Portman for her social activism in areas including gender equality, the fight against poverty, microfinance and animal rights.
"Her talent, her commitment to social causes and her deep connection to her Jewish and Israeli roots are greatly admired," GPF Chairman and co-Founder Stan Polovets said in the statement. "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 making the world a better place."
Portman said she was "deeply touched and humbled" to be joining the ranks of other outstanding Genesis Laureates whom she admires. Previous winners include New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, actor Michael Douglas, violinist Itzhak Perlman and sculptor Sir Anish Kapoor.
The 36-year-old actress also thanked the Foundation and added that she "look[ed] forward to using the global platform it provides to make a difference in the lives of women in Israel and beyond."
The Prize comes with $1 million (€864,000) in award money that is donated to philanthropic causes chosen by the selected laureate.
The 2018 donation in honor of Portland will go to programs focused on advancing women's equality in areas including education, health and safety, and political participation. A "significant portion" will also focus on "advancing women's equality in Israel."
Dual American and Israeli citizenship
Portman was born in Israel in 1981 and immigrated to the United States at age three. She started acting at a young age and rose to Hollywood stardom through such films such as "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace," "V for Vendetta" and "Black Swan," for which she won the 2011 Academy Award for best actress.
In 2015, she directed and starred in the Hebrew-language "Tale of Love and Darkness," based on the novel by Israeli writerAmos Oz.
She has been vegan since 2009 and has contributed to various films and documentaries promoting animal rights. She has also served as the Ambassador of Hope for the FINCA International, a women's microfinancing organization.
A celebration of Jewish achievements
The Genesis Prize is "a global award created to celebrate Jewish achievement and contribution to humanity." The award is a partnership between the Office of the Prime Minister of Israel, the non-profit Jewish Agency for Israel and the Genesis Philanthropy Group, which seeks to develop a sense of Jewish identity among Russian-speaking Jews. The Prize was first awarded in 2014. A $100 million endowment backs the award.