Genesis Prize Laureate Natan Sharansky directs grant to Hillel International Volunteers in Ukraine and Belarus



May 7, 2020

WASHINGTON – Legendary human rights activist Natan Sharansky will direct a portion of the $1 million Genesis Prize awarded in his honor to Hillel CASE (Central Asia Southeastern Europe), whose student volunteers reach out to, engage with, and support and engage elderly members of the Jewish community in Ukraine and Belarus in the face of the global pandemic.

Six Hillel centers in Ukraine (Kyiv, Dnipro, Kharkov, Odessa, Lviv) and Belarus (Minsk) and the 130 Hillel student volunteers running the program will receive grants from Sharansky to continue supporting the most vulnerable and homebound members of their communities.

The Genesis Prize Foundation was established in 2012 with the goal of recognizing accomplished individuals who could instill a sense of pride and inspire the next generation of Jews. 

“We are so grateful to Natan Sharansky and The Genesis Prize Foundation for choosing Hillel to partner with them in their important work,” said Adam Lehman, president and CEO of Hillel International. “Hillel is committed to supporting Jewish student communities in many countries around the world, and we are so proud of the tens of thousands of Hillel students who immediately stepped up in their communities across the former Soviet Union, Europe, Israel, South and North America.” 

“We are proud to support the vital work of Hillel CASE and admire Natan Sharansky’s choice to ensure that the Jewish community in Ukraine and Belarus stays connected across generations during this critical time,” said Sana Britavsky, deputy CEO of the Genesis Prize Foundation. “This investment in Hillel’s volunteers will save lives, combat loneliness and draw the Jewish communities in Ukraine and Belarus closer together. We applaud our laureate’s vision that the only way to overcome the terrible conditions of this pandemic is together.” 

“Stay Connected” is a volunteer project of Hillel CASE aimed at assisting single, elderly members of the Jewish community, veterans, and children with disabilities who are not able to leave their homes due to restrictions in place to protect against the community spread of coronavirus. Hillel’s volunteers seek to engage those who do not receive help from other Jewish organizations, and the program allows them to maintain regular communication with Hillel volunteers, even while physically apart. 

Hillel student volunteers are delivering food kits and have organized regular telephone communication with elders in the community – one call during the week and one before Shabbat. Once the local governments and Hillel International deem that conditions are safe for interaction, Hillel looks forward to coordinating in person visits with the elderly in the Jewish community whom they have been supporting during pandemic restrictions.  

This is not the first time that Hillel and its projects have been supported by The Genesis Prize Foundation. The 2015 Genesis Prize laureate Michael Douglas granted part of his prize to Hillel’s inclusive programming and support for Jews in interfaith families. Additionally, in 2016, as part of the work of The Genesis Prize Foundation, Douglas and Sharansky, in partnership with Hillel, toured U.S. college campuses to speak about the importance of Israel and how the American Jewish community can respond to antisemitism. In 2018, Hillel was also a part of the grants made by laureate Anish Kapoor, through Hillel and others, thousands of Jewish students and young adult volunteers worked together to assemble aid packages for 5,000 Syrian refugees.

To speak with Hillel CASE about the “Stay Connected” program, please contact me, Meredith MacKenzie, [email protected], or call (202) 412-4270. 



About Hillel International

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.

About the Genesis Prize

Launched in 2013, the Prize is financed through a permanent endowment of $100 million established by The Genesis Prize Foundation. Dubbed the “Jewish Nobel” by TIME Magazine, honors extraordinary individuals for their outstanding professional achievement, contribution to humanity, and commitment to Jewish values. Previous Genesis Prize laureates are former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg; actor, producer and peace activist Michael Douglas; virtuoso violinist and advocate for individuals with special needs Itzhak Perlman; sculptor and advocate for the rights of refugees Sir Anish Kapoor; Oscar-winning actress and social activist Natalie Portman; and owner of New England Patriots and founder of the leading foundation to combat anti-Semitism Robert Kraft. In 2018, the Genesis Prize Foundation honored U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with its inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award for her contribution to social justice and equal rights.