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May 4, 2017 1:15 pm

Plight of Syrians Leads to Cancellation of ‘Jewish Nobel’ Ceremony in Jerusalem

avatar by Ben Cohen

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Anish Kapoor. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The Israel-based Genesis Foundation has announced the cancellation of a planned ceremony in Jerusalem at which influential British-Indian contemporary artist Anish Kapoor was to receive its prestigious annual $1 million prize meant to recognize Jewish role models.

The glittering event was set to honor Kapoor for his efforts on behalf of Syrian refugees. But following the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons in Khan Sheikhoun on April 4 and the bombing of a bus that was evacuating refugees near Aleppo on April 15, Kapoor expressed unease about holding “a festive ceremony to honor…his work on refugee issues while children are being killed with chemical and other horrible weapons on Israel’s doorstep,” a statement from the Genesis Foundation said.

Widely referred to as the “Jewish Nobel,” the Genesis Prize was first given in 2014. Recipients of the award so far have included actor Michael Douglas, violinist Itzhak Perlman, and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The Foundation said that in addition to the $1 million prize to Kapoor, which the artist is donating to Syrian refugee relief, it would raise “in lieu of this year’s ceremony…additional funds on projects to help Syrian refugees.”

“When he was selected as the 2017 Genesis Prize laureate, Mr. Kapoor stated that he will direct the $1m award to refugee causes and work with GPF to raise awareness in the Jewish community of the need to do more to help refugees,” the Foundation said.

The 63-year-old Kapoor, who was born in India to a Jewish mother from Iraq and an Hindu father, has created several dramatic large-scale sculptures, among them ‘Turning the World Upside Down’ at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, ‘Cloud Gate’ in Chicago’s Millennium Park, and the ‘Orbit’ in London. Kapoor also created the Holocaust memorial at the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in London and the 70 candles for 70 years project for Holocaust Memorial Day in Britain in 2015, commemorating the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

Announcing the award to Kapoor last month, Natan Sharansky, chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Agency and head of the Genesis Prize selection committee, said: “Throughout our history, the Jewish people suffered not only from active and violent anti-Semitism, perpetrated by a minority, but also from the indifference of the majority. It is this indifference that made persecution, massacres and the Holocaust possible. Anish Kapoor has campaigned against indifference his whole life. His message is clear, powerful, and inspiring.”

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