Some Jewish Billionaires Award Billionaire Bloomberg a Million Bucks

What should he do with the money?
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By / October 24, 2013

Michael Bloomberg loves his billionaires and apparently they love him right back.

As poor Jews get poorer, this week, the billionaire Russian magnates behind the philanthropic Genesis Prize honored one of the world’s most recognizable billionaires for inspiring young Jews, with a cool $1 million.

Bloomberg, who plans to donate the money next year, accepted the Genesis Prize with this statement:

“I am deeply honored to be the first recipient of the Genesis Prize. Many years ago, my parents instilled in me Jewish values and ethics that I have carried with me throughout my life, and which have guided every aspect of my work in business, government, and philanthropy. The Genesis Prize embraces and promotes those same values and ethics – a common thread among the Jewish people worldwide that has helped move humankind forward for centuries.”

In July, Jewcy’s Romy Zipken attended a swanky gathering of young Jewish professionals, at which the Genesis Prize was introduced and she described the scene for Tablet Magazine:

After about an hour of cocktailing, Wayne Firestone, president of the Genesis Prize Foundation and former president and CEO of Hillel, gathered the crowd in a circle around him. He told the story of Ludwig Guttmann, a neurologist who saved the lives of 60 Jews during Kristallnacht by admitting them into his hospital, and who later created the Paralympic Games in London.

Guest speakers then shared their own stories of humble Jewish heroes, including a grandfather, a camp supervisor, and Israeli President Shimon Peres. That is why it was surprising that the “Jewish Nobel”—as the Genesis committee hopes the prize will be called— was awarded to New York City’s three-term, billionaire mayor.

Meanwhile, according to the most recent UJA-Federation report on poverty, one in four Jewish households in New York City lives in poverty or near poverty and that statistic is growing. Though Bloomberg might have a remarkable record of philanthropy, few of the Bloomberg Foundation’s philanthropic endeavors have trickled down to New York City’s young or poor. Bloomberg also has an unfortunate pattern of making some carelessly worded comments about the city’s less fortunate.

So, I figured we should help a Jew out and suggest some organizations that can help Bloomberg put his prize money to good use and better serve young and disadvantaged Jews:

1. Make it Happen– A new initiative by the Shusterman Philanthropic Network is offering microgrants for those have with a good ideas for projects that celebrates being Jewish. Ideas range widely, from Israel-themed Shabbat meals to Kosher cured meat fest.

2. Masbia Soup Kitchen– As suggested by The New Republic’s Marc Tracy (formerly of Tablet Magazine), this volunteer-run non-profit provides wholesome three-course meals in four restaurants throughout Brooklyn and Queens so that the New York City’s hungry can dine with dignity.

3. Brighton Beach Neighborhood Association– The largest demographic of poor Jews in New York are Russian-speaking, senior homes, the very demographic that the Genesis Foundations targets in its philanthropic efforts. Bloomberg was selected for the prize, in part, for his Russian heritage. Well in Brighton Beach (AKA Little Odessa), Pat Singer’s non-profit is one of the sole resources available for aging Russian immigrants.

4. Footsteps– The second largest group that make up the city’s poor are Haredi, particularly Hasidic, families. Footsteps is an non-profit which helps young people who leave these insular ultra-Orthodox communities, offering educational, emotional and social support as they seek self-determined lives.

5. Six Points Fellowship– Forget Billionaires, Bloomberg. More art grants means more artists can afford to live in New York City. Perhaps the prize money can be used to help reopen this recently closed Jewish arts fellowship. In an uncertain economy, New York City is less hospitable to struggling artists than ever before— including Jewish artists.

Where do you think Bloomberg should donate the Genesis Prize? Share your ideas in the comments.