At the Genesis Prize event

Elie Wiesel, left, shares a moment with Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz at the Genesis Prize ceremony in New York.

Last week, I was privileged to join Elie Wiesel, Michael Douglas, Natan Sharansky, Michael Bloomberg and other luminaries of the Jewish world at an award ceremony in New York for the Genesis Prize, an annual $1 million award that recognizes exceptional global Jewish leadership. Actor Douglas was selected as this year’s laureate for the prize and announced that he intends to allocate the prize to support interfaith Jewish families.

Last year’s laureate was Bloomberg, the former New York city mayor, and he dedicated his prize to young social entrepreneurs seeking to affect the Jewish world and beyond. I served as a judge helping to decide how that money should be allocated.

During the time I spent reviewing entries, I sensed that there is much promise from disparate Jewish communities to come together to alleviate social ills across the world. I asked myself how the Phoenix Jewish community can do more: What kind of transformative leadership are we able to attract in our community? Can we find philanthropists to make lasting investments in local Jewish innovation? Can we become a leading city willing to take risks and modeling creative experimentation? With so much at stake, and Phoenix only beginning to recognize its potential as a beacon for other Jewish communities, we are moving forward to better tomorrows.

Rabbi Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz is executive director of Valley Beit Midrash and is the author of seven books on Jewish ethics.

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