At the start of the 20th century, Louis Blaustein, a Jewish immigrant from Lithuania, and his son Jacob drove a horse-drawn wagon through the streets of Baltimore, selling coal oil and kerosene to grocery stores. They eventually grew the business into an oil company that is credited with inventions such as the metered gas pump, the drive-in gas station and the gas tank delivery truck.
Today, more than 100 years later, the descendants of Louis and Jacob are using a fortune built on fossil fuels to fund, among other causes, climate justice and environmental groups.
The various branches of the family have set up separate charitable foundations but they work together through the Blaustein Philanthropic Group, whose mission statement says the family is “united by roots in Jewish tradition, concern for social justice and equality of opportunity.”
Some branches donate to the major green organizations like the Environmental Defense Fund and to groups focused on local organizing like West Harlem Environmental Action and Chesapeake Climate Action Network.
And some of the Blaustein money is going to support explicitly Jewish climate activism. They have donated more than $300,000 since 2019 to Hazon, a long-standing environmental group, and Dayenu, a newer initiative created to bolster Jewish representation in the climate movement.
Rabbi Jennie Rosenn, the founder and CEO of Dayenu, said she’s grateful for the “critical and generous support” of the Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Foundation, and she added that the giving has special meaning because of the origins of the family’s wealth.
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“When foundations like the Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Foundation give to an organization like Dayenu that fights the fossil fuel industry in order to build a more just and sustainable future, it feels like a kind of teshuva,” she said, referring to a Jewish concept of making amends. “I …