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A Hanukkah 2000 message from a couple whose dream became reality with the help of a Hebrew Free Loan Society adoption loan.
Networking Central

The Hebrew Free Loan Society

Deborah is a single mother with two developmentally disabled adult children. She was forced to move when she could no longer climb the stairs to her apartment. While she could afford the deposit and rent for her new home, she had no way to pay the moving expenses.

Dan’s wife had cancer that wasn’t responding to treatment. The couple learned of an experimental treatment available in Germany, but their resources had been exhausted by her illness.

Marina is an immigrant from the former Soviet Union. She supports herself through her cleaning business, but she needed a reliable car to meet her work obligations.

Helene's 92-year-old mother lives in Israel. Helene hadn't seen her in two years, and couldn't afford a plane ticket.

What do Deborah, Dan, Marina, and Helene (all names have been changed to protect their privacy) have in common? They were all helped by the Hebrew Free Loan Society of Greater Philadelphia. Each received a small interest-free loan that made the difference in solving his or her problem.

What is a Hebrew Free Loan Society?

Hebrew Free Loan Societies are based on the Biblical mandate "If you lend money to My people, to the poor among you, do not act towards them as a creditor; exact no interest from them." (Exodus 22:24) Jewish communities throughout history have maintained these organizations. Today, dozens of Hebrew Free Loans exist throughout the world.

The Hebrew Free Loan Society of Greater Philadelphia has provided interest-free loans to the local Jewish community since our founding in 1984. During that time, we've granted over 1,500 loans totaling more than $2,000,000. We are funded entirely by donations, and we recycle money from one borrower to the next as our loans are repaid.

How do we help?

We make loans of up to $5,000 to borrowers with credit-worthy co-signers. Borrowers must be Jewish or have a strong link to the Jewish community, such as caring for a Jewish senior or working for a Jewish communal organization. Borrowers also must live in the Greater Philadelphia area (the Pennsylvania counties of Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia, or the New Jersey counties of Burlington, Camden, Gloucester or Mercer).

Loans are granted for many purposes, including such things as medical and dental bills, home repairs, apartment rental and deposits, home purchase closing costs, family member immigration, adoption, fertility treatments, Jewish camp, vocational and job training, and education.

Why do we help?

Especially in these uncertain economic times, Jews must support each other in the most basic ways. It’s estimated that a quarter of all Jews in the Philadelphia area live below the poverty level.

In the Book of Ruth, we read that Jewish farmers were obligated to leave the corners of their fields to help the widows and orphans to survive. By working to harvest for themselves, the poor were saved the indignity of begging for assistance.

In a similar way, the Hebrew Free Loan is a conduit for Jews to provide anonymous support to neighbors with a financial need. By providing a loan, we are not giving charity, but giving our borrowers the temporary assistance they need.

The Greater Philadelphia Hebrew Free Loan Society has no paid staff. We operate out of space donated by Beth Sholom Congregation. Our Board of Directors volunteer their time to do the Society's work. In this way, virtually every dollar we receive in donations gets recycled time and again.

Our organization is part of the International Society of Hebrew Free Loans (www.freeloan.org), with members around the world. Jewish communities, large and small, from Buenos Aires to Buffalo; from Jerusalem to North Jersey; from Miami to Montreal have Hebrew Free Loans, and we join with them to do our good work.

How can you help your local Free Loan Society?

  • Spread the word. We spend very little on publicity and do no advertising. Therefore, there are people who need us but don't know we exist.
  • Join us. We always need volunteers to help us with phone calls, mailings, visits to local synagogues, and the like.
  • Contribute. Every dollar we receive in donations goes into our revolving loan fund. We are a 501 (c) 3 charity.

To learn more about us or to apply for a loan, visit www.HebrewFreeLoanPhila.org, email info@hebrewfreeloanphila.org or leave a message at 267-709-9652.

To view previous editions of "Networking Central", please click here.

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