How Hebrew Free Loan began.
In 1895, ten men pledged $50 each and began to lend out money to those in need in the Detroit Jewish community. They anticipated the large wave of immigration that was on the horizon, and as the population grew, so did the need for their loans.
These people conducted loan interviews, administered the loans, and were responsible for collecting monies owed. They incorporated under the name Gemilut Chasadim (Acts of Loving Kindness), and raised funds through donations, bequests and by holding fundraising events, such as a charity dance ball held in 1908.
Helping establish Detroit’s Jewish community.
In addition to making loans for domestic purposes, HFL assisted every wave of immigration to come to Detroit: the German Jews during the late ’30s, the Displaced Persons after World War II, the Hungarian and Iranian Jews in the ’50s and ’60s, and large waves of Russian Jews. HFL instituted loan programs for these newcomers’ greatest needs, including transportation and housing.
Reaching out to other countries and other counties.
In 1982, HFL Detroit was one of the founding members of the International Association of Jewish Free Loans (IAJFL) and brought together Free Loan Associations from the United States, Canada, Israel and Australia. Through this affiliation, HFL has been able to learn about new loan programs and best practices, and share this information with others. At the end of the 20th century, HFL branched out to Michigan cities outside the tri-county area, providing services to a greater number than ever before.
Hebrew Free Loan today and tomorrow.
Today, issues are different and financial needs are greater. Now we give loans to young men and women seeking college degrees, to couples facing an expensive adoption or fertility process, to those who have been recently laid off, to people moving back into the city of Detroit, to Michigan Jewish organizations for infrastructure upgrades, and to entrepreneurs starting new business ventures. More than 98 percent of our loans are repaid, and many loan recipients become donors, helping to sustain the future work of Hebrew Free Loan and the future of the Jewish community in Michigan.