Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke at the Genesis Prize ceremony Thursday night, welcoming awardee and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and honoring his dedication to public service.
Netanyahu noted that Bloomberg has built on the philanthropy of Jewish groups, stressing that post-college programs - "including Taglit, Birthright, Israel - Masa, and Hillel" - "are all very important to keep the connection between Israel and the Jewish people."
The Prime Minister then congratulated Bloomberg on his achievements in meriting the prize, which honors both Jewish values and Israeli innovation.
"I think that in creating the Genesis Prize, there is a need to identify each year one outstanding individual, one individual who embodies in many ways Jewish traditions and Jewish values."
"The most important tradition that we have is that we cherish our heritage, but we are always seeking new things. There is a different way of thinking about things, about problems, about solutions, about challenges. I think that's what the State of Israel is about. We've achieved remarkable things in our 66 years and I think the world marvels at it," remarked Netanyahu.
"We achieved it because we're grounded in our traditions, and yet at the same time, we seek to seize the future: with technology, with science, with breakthrough innovation," he continued. "And I can think of no one more worthy of this honor – which we present tonight for the very first time – than my friend Michael Bloomberg."
Netanyahu honored Bloomberg for his achievements in "business, public service, and philanthropy."
"How many people do you know around the world whose name is known around the world?" he asked. "Michael has revolutionized an industry, opened up vast sources of information, and as leader of New York brought - I think - an unmatchable credo of leadership and management."
"[Michael] changed New York - everyone saw that," he continued. "He had novel approaches to education, to welfare, to public management, to finances, to restaurants - everything. All of us can visit New York and can see the difference."
"He put one of the most challenging and complicated cities in the world on solid footing," he added.
Netanyahu also lauded Bloomberg for "not stopping at New York" and becoming the US Special Envoy to the United Nations for Cities and Climate Change.
"I think Michael brings big thinking," he reflected, "combined with a laser-like focus on measurable results that can, indeed, change the world."
Bloomberg is the first Genesis Prize winner, a move he chose to celebrate in a big way. The Genesis Prize Foundation announced Thursday that Bloomberg chose to invest the $1 million prize in a global competition named the Genesis Generation Challenge, which aims to find new ideas to improve the world - and reward ten teams with grants for their ideas from the prize money.