Academy Award-winning actor and activist Michael Douglas announced Thursday that Hillel International would be the first grant recipient of the inclusivity initiative launched by the Genesis Prize Foundation and himself.
Hillel International, which seeks to foster pluralistic Jewish communities on college campuses across the world, will use the $200,000 grant to create programming designed to engage students from intermarried families and from diverse backgrounds.
The grant was announced at a ceremony on June 18 where Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented Douglas with the second Genesis Prize.
Eric D. Fingerhut, President and CEO of Hillel International, attended the prize ceremony in Jerusalem.
“Michael Douglas’ leadership and love for the Jewish community is a testament to why we cannot afford to close our doors to the children of intermarried families,” Fingerhut said. “We will use this generous grant to ensure that Hillels around the world have the necessary tools to help students from intermarried backgrounds and diverse experiences always feel at home in our community.”
Hillel International will use the grant to expand its initiative to engage a diverse range of students in Jewish life and build inclusive communities on campus. The program will support the annual Hillel Institute conference, where 230 student engagement interns from more than 40 college campuses will be trained in ways to engage their peers and create welcoming communities. These engagement interns will spend the academic year on their own campuses, building relationships with students of all backgrounds and bringing them into the Hillel family. Hillel’s engagement goal is to reach 15,000 new Jewish students, including more than 7,000 students from intermarried families.
In accepting the Genesis Prize, Douglas said, “I strongly believe that Judaism should reflect that spirit of welcome in the tradition that began with Abraham’s tent.” When speaking about the organizations who will benefit from the prize, including Hillel, he said, “These organizations are making a difference, they are working to welcome all and I am honored to be able to help them in their efforts.”
Hillel International will also utilize the funds to launch a social media campaign in 2016 that highlights the diversity of Jewish college students around the globe. The campaign will be a powerful, visual reminder of Hillel’s commitment to pluralism.
“Jewish tradition teaches that there are 70 faces of Torah. Anyone who has spent time on campus knows that there are at least as many faces of Jewish students today-- those from intermarried families, those coming from a wide range of racial, ethnic and cultural identities, students who are LGBTQ, students with disabilities, students from various socio-economic backgrounds, and more. This generous grant will help maximize our efforts to show every student that they are valued,” said Sheila Katz, Hillel International’s Vice President for Social Entrepreneurship, who will oversee the grant implementation.
At the Jerusalem ceremony, the Genesis Prize Foundation, the Jewish Funders Network and Douglas announced the establishment of a dedicated fund to foster the inclusion of intermarried families in the global Jewish community.