Yosef Abramowitz has been nominated for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize for his groundbreaking work bringing solar power to the African continent. Today, he’s known as Israel’s solar pioneer — sometimes dubbed “Captain Sunshine” — but at heart, Abramowitz sees himself as what he’s always been: A Jewish educator.
“I still see myself as a Jewish educator [as I’m] financing and building solar fields in Africa,” Abramowitz, 57, said in an interview this week. “We may end up actually influencing more young people to appreciate the very rich change-the-world tradition that they come from, just by setting an example.”
On Monday, Israeli TV first broke the news that Abramowitz, brother-in-law to comedian Sarah Silverman and Shabbat dinner host of then-Senator Kamala Harris, was nominated for arguably the world’s most coveted humanitarian award by members of parliament from 12 African countries and Belize.
Energiya Global, where Abramowitz is the CEO and founder, espouses a vision that clean energy should not “be a luxury that only wealthy nations can afford, but will be the energy of choice for lifting people in developing countries out of poverty.” The group aims to expand to developing African countries the technologies and strategies of Abramowitz’s previous venture, Arava Power Company, which in 2011 launched Israel’s first utility-scale solar energy field. In the past six months, Abramowitz said, a region in Israel — “from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea” — became the first in the world to be powered in daytime exclusively by solar energy.
Bishop Scott Mwanza, the Africa Director for the Israel Allies Foundation, organized support for Abramowitz’s nomination. In a statement to The Forward, Mwanza said he has known Abramowitz for a “long time as my brother,” and lauded his “humanitarian heart.”
Abramowitz “wants to lift up the living standards of his fellow human beings,” wrote Mwanza, who lives in Zambia. “The Nobel Peace Prize is the best gift the world can give such a man.”
For his part, Abramowitz’s reaction to the news of his nomination was “overwhelming humility and gratitude” and “heavy responsibility,” he said, recalling his time studying under Elie Weisel at Boston University in the 1980s when Weisel won the Nobel Peace Prize. The renowned Holocaust survivor, activist, and writer remains a profound inspiration for Abramowitz. When he heard about the nomination, “At first, I thought of him, and that’s very very meaningful.”