Itzhak Perlman to Donate Multimillion-Dollar Prize to Benefit Music and Those with Disabilities

By Cristina Schreil

Violinist Itzhak Perlman, long venerated for his advocacy as much as his esteemed career, will donate all multimillion-dollar earnings through his Genesis Prize laureateship to several charities. The US- and Israel-based programs are specifically music oriented or aid those with disabilities.

Perlman, 70, was named 2016’s laureate of the Genesis Prize—often compared to the Nobel Prize and awarded by the Prime Minister of Israel—last December. The annual award includes $1 million and “honors exceptional individuals who have attained excellence in their professional field, have made a significant contribution to humanity, and serve as an inspiration to others through their dedication to Jewish values and the State of Israel.” Since the announcement, Perlman’s endowment has tripled to $3 million upon contributions from other parties.


Perlman announced at the time of his award that in lieu of accepting the money, he would donate it to philanthropic projects benefitting those with disabilities or promoting music and music education. “I am honored to be given the opportunity to distribute the Genesis Prize funds to these worthy causes,” Perlman says.

“A 16-time Grammy-award winner, he has been an incredible source of inspiration for individuals with special needs by overcoming tremendous personal challenges after having been severely disabled by polio at age four,” chairman and co-founder of the Genesis Prize, Stan Polovets, said in a statement last December.

Past winners of the Genesis Prize, which is funded through a private foundation based in New York City and Tel Aviv, are former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and actor Michael Douglas. Their prizes bolstered new philanthropic initiatives. It was announced on September 12 that a matching grant program titled “Breaking Barriers” was launched in honor of Perlman. The initiative’s aim is to “promote the inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of Jewish communal life.”

“I am honored to be part of ‘Breaking Barriers,’” Perlman said in a statement. “And to have the opportunity to encourage other funders to join this critical initiative so that each person, regardless of his or her abilities, will have the opportunity to maximize their potential and to participate as full members of the community. This is a great opportunity to open more doors and accept all who choose to enter.”

The Genesis Prize is not the only recent high honor in Perlman’s life; in November 2015, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama.