Genesis Prize-winner Itzhak Perlman has said he will donate his $1m prize money to music education and helping people with disabilities, ahead of the ceremony in Jerusalem tonight where UK actress Helen Mirren will present him with the prize.
The Israeli-American violinist, who was awarded the ‘Jewish Nobel’ for his accomplishments as a musician, teacher and advocate for the disabled in December, told the Times of Israel that he has found the prize money ‘challenging’.
“This is one of the challenges of this prize: To whom do you give the money? And it seems as though it would be a very simple challenge, but it’s not, because there are so many organizations around and so many projects, and I have to make up my mind what is personally something I feel strongly about,” he said.
“You’re talking about a minimum of a million dollars, which, when you think about giving it away, it’s not that much. And it’s almost not so much how much it is, but what effect this money can have, either on an organization or on a person, or on a project, and so on and so forth.”
He said he was concentrating his efforts on “the two things that I’m interested in, which is music, and the problem of people with disabilities … and then we will see.”
He also spoke about being a representative of Israel when he travels with the Israel Philharmonic. “When I’m traveling with the Israel Philharmonic I certainly do [feel like a representative of Israel in the world]. But, well, at this moment I feel that people know who I am, and I’ve been living in the United States since 1958. I was born in Israel, so I’m both an Israeli artist and some people call me an American artist. I don’t know, just call me an artist — if I’m lucky enough.
“I’ve always said, it’s like a barometer. If things are warming up politically, then the Israel Philharmonic is quote “allowed” to go.”
Although he refused to get drawn into a political discussion about the Middle East or the BDS movement he did describe BDS as “disgusting”.
“It’s disgusting, and the thing is that I’m just hoping that music is something that helps bring everybody together. And I believe that it is, whether you play in Israel, or in the former Soviet Union, or wherever you play,” he said.
“As a matter of fact, the singularly most asked piece for me to play is the theme from ‘Schindler’s List.’ Absolutely unbelievable. And all of a sudden, you forget about what’s going on politically, and no matter where you go in the world, this is what they request and I’m always amazed at that.
“The theme of the piece is so close to what’s been happening in Jewish history. But yet, that’s what people want to hear.”
Mr Perlman, who has won 16 Grammys and played the violin solo in the Oscar-winning soundtrack for the 1993 film ‘Schindler's List’, said he was "humbled" to be recognised not only for his personal accomplishments, but also his commitment to his Jewish identity.
The Genesis Prize was created in 2014 by the Genesis Philanthropy Group in partnership with the Israeli government to honour “exceptional people whose values and achievements will inspire the next generations of Jews”.