Jenifer Altman Foundation

Jenifer Altman Foundation


* Assets $5,700,483 (2017)
* Grants Received: $10,000 (2017)
* Grants Awarded: $260,150 (2017)

The Jenifer Altman Foundation (JAF) describes itself as “a private foundation that supports creative work in health, education, the environment and justice”—work whose purpose is to “heal” humanity and the earth alike by integrating itself with the larger “global movement for environmental health and justice.”

The Foundation’s namesake, environmentalist Jenifer Altman, was born in 1941 and was the granddaughter of David Samuel Gottesman (1885-1956), a Hungarian immigrant to the U.S. who became an investment banker and developed Central National Gottesman, Inc. into a billion-dollar pulp and paper company. When Altman was stricken with cancer in her late forties, she sought treatment at Commonweal, a nonprofit health and environmental research institute based in Bolinas, California. While being treated at Commonweal, she also began to work there as a senior research associate. Shortly before Altman ultimately succumbed to her illness on November 15, 1991, Commonweal president Michael Lerner helped her establish the Jenifer Altman Foundation, mainly to support leftwing environmentalist organizations.

Today JAF’s philanthropy falls into three major categories:

1) Environmental Health and Justice: Grants in this category seek to “address the impact of chemicals on human and ecological health, and to develop and strengthen an integrated global environmental health and justice movement.”

2) Bolinas Community Projects: These grants are intended to contribute to the well-being of the Bolinas, California community, where Jenifer Altman spent the last years of her life.

3) Commonweal: In honor of Altman’s strong desire to ensure continued support for Commonweal’s work, JAF makes a sustaining grant to the institute each year.

In addition, JAF also awards Special Project grants to “unique” organizations and initiatives that may not fit precisely within the parameters of its aforementioned funding priorities but nonetheless “reflect the ethos of the Foundation.”

Among the noteworthy beneficiaries of JAF grants are the Alliance for Global Justice, the Earth Action Network, the Earth Island Institute, the Environmental Defense Fund, Environmental Media Services, the Environmental Working Group, Friends of the Earth, Global Exchange, Greenpeace, the National Religious Partnership for the Environment, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the New America Foundation, Physicians for Social Responsibility, the Public Citizen Foundation, the Public Interest Research Group Charitable Trust, the Rainforest Action Network, the Rockefeller Family Fund, the Sierra Club, the Tides Foundation and the Tides Center, the World Resources Institute, and the World Wildlife Fund.

To view a list of additional JAF grantees, click here.

JAF co-founder Michael Lerner warns that the very survival of the human race has been placed in peril by “climate change, ozone depletion, toxic chemicals and habitat loss.” “The Age of Extinctions” is close at hand, he says, because “more and more people consuming more and more of the earth’s resources, with the application of frequently … more toxic technologies, driven either by blind affluence or blind desperation, have become the leading cause of basic changes in the biosphere.” Emphasizing the economic inequity inherent in this trend, Lerner asserts that “in the United States and Europe, the impact of the Age of Extinctions is buffered for the wealthy by many forms of economic and human capital.”

To address the problems identified by Lerner, JAF calls for “a deep transformation in human consciousness and human activity on the earth”—i.e., a rejection of “the primitive death-dealing technologies that we thoughtlessly deploy today.” “Fully conscious technologies that support and sustain the tree of life rather than weaken it,” says JAF, promote awareness of “the interdependence of all life.”

For additional information on JAF, click here.

(Information on grantees and monetary amounts courtesy of The Foundation Center, GuideStar, ActivistCash, the Capital Research Center and Undue Influence)

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