The Genesis Prize Foundation (GPF) has named Natan Sharansky, a world reknown advocate for freedom, democracy and human rights, as the 2020 Genesis Prize Laureate. In choosing Sharansky the Selection Committee noted his extraordinary lifelong struggle for political and religious freedoms, emphasizing the relevance of his work in today’s world.
“Natan Sharansky is one of the great human rights advocates of our lifetime,” said Stan Polovets, Co-founder and Chairman of The Genesis Prize Foundation. “At great personal sacrifice, he fought for the rights and dignity of all ethnicities, religions and nationalities. Today, as we witness democratic principles being challenged and human rights, along with freedoms of thought and expression, denied to so many, Natan’s example is an inspiration to all those struggling for democracy. While this is particularly true in parts of the world under authoritarian rule, even in democracies our freedoms cannot be taken for granted. Natan’s ideals and vision are as relevant today as they were in the 1980’s when he took on the totalitarian Soviet regime – and won.”
The annual Genesis Prize honors extraordinary individuals for their outstanding professional achievement, contribution to humanity, and commitment to Jewish values. In line with the tradition established by previous recipients of the Prize, Sharansky has chosen to forgo the $1 million award, and GPF will donate the funds in his honor to nonprofit organizations to be selected at a future date.
After being imprisoned in a Soviet gulag for nearly a decade, he has devoted his life to advancing and protecting human rights around the world. His values and ethics, rooted deeply in his Jewish faith, have served as his moral compass – and his life has been a beacon to so many who dream of freedom.”
Natan Sharansky first gained global renown in the 1970s as a leader of the Soviet dissident movement, where he worked alongside Nobel Prize Laureate Andrei Sakharov, demanding that the USSR live up to its international human rights obligations. Arrested for his challenge to the Soviet regime, he spent nine years incarcerated as a Prisoner of Conscience – much of it in solitary confinement – refusing to disavow his demands for respect of human rights for all oppressed people of the Soviet Union.
Unbroken, Sharansky was released in 1986 following an intense international pressure campaign, spearheaded by his wife Avital. His release became the symbolic prelude to the unraveling of the communist regimes throughout the Soviet bloc in the late 1980’s.
Natan Sharansky will be honored at the Genesis Prize Ceremony in Jerusalem on June 18, 2020.