Helping Michigan’s Jewish Students Achieve Their Dreams: The William Davidson Jewish College Loan Program and Hebrew Free Loan Are Here to Help

February 3rd, 2015

Every day, it seems there is a news story about college loans and the financial burden they create. Recently, President Barack Obama announced his intention of making junior college free for qualifying students. The issue of crippling student debt is something that follows so many and creates long-term financial issues for many people — well into middle age.


The student debt for the population in the United States is estimated to be more than $1 trillion, according to Forbes and the average college graduate leaves university with more than $20,000 in loans.


Education is the key to so many things, including a better job, health insurance and home ownership. Yet the cost of education is putting a burden on many young adults.


To that end, the William Davidson Jewish College Loan Program (WDJCLP)  is here to help qualifying Jewish students with interest-free loans. Hebrew Free Loan , with their partners, is here to reach Jewish students and help them achieve their dreams. The student loan program provides the “last dollars in” (i.e. HFL Detroit comes in after the student has completed financial aid options through the college of choice) to assist a student.


A WDJCLP loan can often make the difference between just getting by at school and enjoying the totality of a college educational experience.


The program is also a win-win for the State of Michigan. Although there are exceptions, an individual must attend a Michigan college or university, thereby keeping dollars and talent in our state.


The loans are interest free and with the majority of today’s students graduating with interest accruing loans, the WDJCLP loan will provide a welcome reprieve from these high interest rates. Additionally, repayment of these loans begins six months after school ends and allows for long-term repayment on a sliding scale.


I am hopeful that the number of loans we grant this year will exceed last year’s numbers. I am hopeful that word will continue to spread that these “last in” dollars are available for any Jewish Michigan student needing assistance in combination with government and institutional aid, as appropriate.


We were able to assist about 200 students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels in 2014. This totaled $1.5 million in interest free loans!

The William Davidson Jewish College Loan Program allows Hebrew Free Loan the opportunity to expand our reach throughout the state as well as the Jewish community. The ability to relieve some of the burden education places on families is a blessing and a mitzvah.


After all, the Talmud says “he who adds not to his learning, diminishes it.”


Hebrew Free Loan Detroit William Davidson Jewish College Loan Program quote


This blog was written by Harriet Orley, vice president of HFL Detroit’s Board of Directors and chair of the William Davidson Jewish College Loan Program.

HFL and Technology: Expanding Communications and Efficiencies

November 5th, 2013

HFL and Technology: Expanding Communications and Efficiencies  
Authored by: David Contorer

At the recent International Association of Hebrew Free Loans (IAJFL) conference in Atlanta, some great technology ideas were shared, and Detroit’s HFL is putting these into action:
•    Videos posted on HFL’s website, social media sites and through our Jewish Federation’s e-newsletter and Facebook page, narrating the testimonials and life-changing outcomes of successful loan borrowers.
•    ONLINE, interest-free, college/ graduate school loan applications that allow the student and family to provide ongoing data (saved and secured by password log-in), including tax return info and academic transcripts.  Then, personal interviews at HFL follow to help the student AND the whole family to address other potential issues (including our referrals to our agencies that can help).
•    E-newsletters with brief statistics, blog links and loan success stories/ videos
•    Using Facebook and Twitter to send INTERACTIVE information with Q & A and outreach to our Jewish community members.  Responsive and interactive social media is so much more effective than static, one-way postings of information.
•    Co-branding on different agency’s web sites (like summer camps that have a link to HFL’s web page with our logo visible, to let families know that our interest-free dollars can help send their kids to camp).
Communicating with all of HFL’s stakeholders in the most compelling and interactive ways is critical.  HFL’s “My Story” ads in the Detroit Jewish News every two weeks are great for those who see them, but a growing part of our world no longer reads PAPER!
We have limited time and space to “make our case,” so diverse marketing and communications ‘touches’ through many forms of media and technology can make a huge positive difference.
The efficiencies that technology can provide for our loan borrowers (and for prospective borrowers and donors) allow HFL to expand our mission to help others help themselves.

From New Jersey to Detroit — with HFL!

October 28th, 2013

Blog Authored by Ariella Shaffren

In June of 2012, Ariella, Dani, and Koby Shaffren made the move to Southfield, MI from Teaneck NJ. It was a big move for them, leaving their families in New Jersey for a state 600 miles away.  Despite having no local family and having met only a few members of the community, the warmth of the people in Southfield helped ease their transition and they settled in quickly. They were even able to buy a house, a far-off prospect in New Jersey, given the cheaper housing market of southeast Michigan.  The community was a big help for them, assisting them with meals early on, showing them around, and providing the invaluable information necessary for learning a new locale. They adjusted quickly and are now happy to call Southfield their home.

Over the 14 months that they have been here, both Ariella and Dani have gotten involved in the community. Dani often lains in the shul and now serves on the shul board as the Youth Liason. Ariella is involved in various Jewish Federation committees and serves as the YIS Sisterhood Co-President. In September their son Koby will be attending the Nursery 2 program at Akiva Hebrew Day School in Southfield. They are very excited about Koby’s new school and are confident that they made the right choice by sending him there. Having moved to Metro Detroit for Dani’s job, Ariella was unable to keep her position in NJ. With help from the community and a Jewish communal jobs group, Ariella has recently been hired for her marketing and public-relations skills.

During the home buying process, they were told about an interest free loan through Young Israel of Southfield and Hebrew Free Loan that could help with the move, home renovations, or various other expenses. Luckily, they were able to find a home that didn’t need much work and they did not need to take advantage of this loan. However, several of their friends who were new to the community were able to use it.

After living here for more than a year, the Shaffrens know that they made the right move and are happy to call Southfield their home

Expanding HFL’s Camp Loans and for The Teen Mission

September 4th, 2013

Blog authored by: Sherri Ketai

A Hebrew Free Loan (HFL) interest-free loan can help families (that have financial need or may just not have the necessary cash-flow) to pay for summer camp experiences and for Israel travel.  This comes in VERY handy when a lump-sum deposit or final amount is due in the spring, and many families do not have the ability to make that deadline.  An HFL loan for a qualifying family (subject to a customized loan pay-off timeline) will allow them to pay back HFL over 12 months—without interest, of course.

As a newer Board member at HFL, I asked if the general Jewish community is aware of these loans and whether or not camps (besides Tamarack) are promoting this to their families.

We think that many overnight and day camps where Jewish kids regularly attend (in Michigan and throughout our region) are NOT AWARE and have never promoted this opportunity to their Michigan-based Jewish families.

This blog is the first step HFL will be taking to expand awareness to the following overnight camps: Tavor, Tamakwa, Tanuga, Interlochen, Ramah, GUCI, Walden, and Wooden Acres.  This is not an exhaustive list, but it is where we will be starting.

Summer day camps at the Jewish Community Center (JCC) and at many synagogues also serve families who may have difficulties in paying a lump-sum camp deposit.  HFL will reach out to remind all of these groups that their families also may be eligible for HFL summer camp loans.

Another amazing program in our community is the Israel Teen Mission of The Jewish Federation and many partnering synagogues.  This is an expensive but life-changing Israel experience for our Jewish teens, but again—many families may have a tough time meeting the cost to send their kids (even with scholarships that are available).  HFL can provide interest-free loan assistance that makes the Teen Mission a reality, as well.

HFL is expanding our horizons, so spread the word!

Why Serving on the HFL Board is a Special Experience

August 14th, 2013

Blog authored by: Susie Pappas

This may surprise many who know me but I am not a native Detroiter.  I came here from Chicago in 1971 as a new bride and did not know a soul except my husband, Norm.  So what does a “newbie” do to meet some new people?  Join organizations, of course!  Before I knew it, I became very involved in the Jewish community, taking a variety of leadership roles in Federation and other Jewish organizations.  I was fortunate to be asked to serve on several boards, including the JCC, JFS, Women’s Department and Board of Governors of the JFMD as well as being involved with Yad Ezra and JARC.  I even spent a short time on the HFL board but because of time restraints, I had to drop off that one.  Fast forward about 30 years and here I am once again on one of the best boards in town!  Hebrew Free Loan is the place to be!

As a board member, I take my turn about 4-6 times a year to help with interviewing potential borrowers.  I have learned many things while fulfilling this job.

  1. We try to say “yes” as often as we can, which always makes each of us feel proud of a job well done.  Usually as long as the borrower can repay the loan and is able to secure two valid co-signers, we can loan the money that is requested.

  2. People come to Hebrew Free Loan because they have nowhere else to go.

  3. We hear all kinds of stories: many are sad, but we also hear about simchas, as well.

  4. People just like you and me may very well be sitting right across the table from me (and they have, believe me)

  5. We recycle money–yes, it is a loan–but 99% of the time, the loan is paid back and then it can be loaned out again to others in need.

  6. The staff at HFL are among the nicest and most helpful staff I have ever worked with.

  7. I look forward to my interview times and would like to do it more often but everyone on this board feels the same way!

If serving on the Hebrew Free Loan board could be a lifetime position, then sign me up, please!  As I said, it’s one of the best boards in town!!

Project Heal

August 7th, 2013

Blog Authored by Dr Allen Berman

I feel very fortunate to be a member of the HEAL loan team. These loans are funded through a special grant (from The Jewish Fund and matching donations)  and are for individuals who need medical or dental procedures but can not qualify for a traditional loan.  We are able to relax our requirements on co-signers and repayment schedules and can therefore provide assistance to the most vulnerable in our community.

 As a practicing dentist and healthcare professional, I have the unique opportunity to review and discuss each case with the other members of the HEAL team.  By pooling our expertise we are able to evaluate, validate and ultimately expedite the process so our clients can get the treatment they need.  From a personal point of view, it is very gratifying to be part of an organization that facilitates members of our Jewish community in meeting their various needs while maintainig their dignity.

Expanding Directions – Camp, College and other Loan Programs

July 23rd, 2013

Blog Authored by Michael Berke and David Contorer

Hebrew Free Loan (HFL) is growing our loan programs and expanding awareness across the Jewish communities of Michigan.  We believe there are so many more people who could benefit from our interest-free loans for home repair, a used car, starting/ expanding a small business, paying for in-vitro fertilization and to cover hundreds of other living expenses.  HFL will always focus on safety-net service needs, where interest-free loans can provide these critical sources of support.  Beyond the safety net, HFL wants the community to know that the agency is here to help in so many other situations, as well.

In 2013 and beyond, there are some key areas where HFL will be growing our loan pool and publicizing to the community about our ability to help our Jewish community members to enhance their lives.

Summer camp experiences take many forms.  Jewish families in Michigan send their children to dozens of camps—some are day camps at the Jewish Community Center or at synagogues; some are Reform, Conservative, Orthodox or Israeli Jewish movement camps with a variety of programming; other camps are athletic or music-themed.  In all cases, these camps require significant fees to enroll your kids.  An HFL, interest-free, summer camp loan in the spring can allow a family to cover that cost (and pay back HFL over the course of the next 12 months).  This is a life-enhancing, cash-flow benefit that HFL intends to publicize and share with many more camps and families across our region.  Let us help your family send the kids to camp!

Interest-free loans for college and graduate school are so desperately needed across the U.S., and HFL will be stepping up to address those needs in Michigan’s Jewish community.  HFL will aggressively be expanding this loan program with more loan dollars and a robust marketing / outreach campaign and new technology to let hundreds more families know that we are here to help their students.

And speaking of ‘outreach,’ HFL’s Road Show is coming to a synagogue and Jewish organization near you!  We are not only sharing blogs and social media about our loans, but real, live HFL people are getting the word out to anyone who will listen that HFL is here to help you with our loans!  We will be at the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue in the fall (and at many other places to share the message).

HFL is growing our capacity and the awareness across Michigan’s Jewish community landscape that our agency is here to help, just like we’ve been doing for 118 years.

The Importance of Giving to Jewish Organizations

June 5th, 2013

Blog Authored by: Sandy Muskovitz Danto

Why should you give to Jewish organizations? I can tell you why I do and hope my reasons resonate.

I value the tenets and legacy of our people. I recognize the sorrows of our history and the constant obligation to improve present and future Jewish life. This improves the world, not just the Jewish world.

Tzedakah is frequently simplified in translation as meaning charity and charitable giving. But, the intent of tzedakah is social justice, fairness, making the world a better and more equitable place through Jewish giving. It is a mitzvah to give both monetarily and of oneself, to care for one another, not just for ourselves. Compassion and understanding deepen, thereby increasing the “repair of the world”. Helping the Jewish people, helps the world, and does not mean to the exclusion of others. When I contribute to the strength of our people, they in turn, can fortify others.

I give because it is a commandment of our faith and tradition.

I give because it is important to feel the pain and suffering of others.

I give to honor and keep alive those I love, but never knew, who were destroyed from my sight and touch because they were Jewish. Anti-semitism exists in the world. Giving to Jewish organizatons helps root our existence.

I give because it is important to help my people. They are my family and the birthright of my children and grandchildren.

I give because I am a member of a community. I see the needs and life-improving results that organizations such as the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, Hebrew Free Loan, and Jewish Family Service have on our local and global community.

I give because in doing so I receive the blessings of deeper understanding, greater compassion, and fulfillment.

I give to insure that if my time of need should come, my community will be there for me.

I give because I recognize my good fortune to be Jewish in America.

I give because I see the effective and efficient use of my dollars to Jewish organizations that receive our contributions.

Finally, I give because I should and I must. It is my bond with my faith and to my people.


Sandy Muskovitz Danto /HFL Board Member / JFMD Campaign and Community Development Co-Chair

Keeping Jewish Youth in Detroit

May 28th, 2013

Blog authored by: Michael Berke

I feel very fortunate and blessed.  Linda and I have a wonderful family that includes our children and their spouses: Marc and Sharon, Stephanie and Matthew, and four beautiful “of course” grandchildren, Cameron, Gabriel, Isabelle, Eli.  We feel extremely lucky that both families reside in metro Detroit.  With so many young people moving out of town, this seems to be the exception rather than the rule in this area.

Our greatest natural resource, our children, have been steadily out-migrating to other communities for many years rather than remaining in the Detroit area.  They leave for numerous reasons, but primarily better career opportunities are at the top of the list.  The economy in southeastern Michigan has not afforded our young people the job options that places like New York, Boston, and Chicago can offer.

All of us in the Jewish community have been very concerned about this problem for many years and have been diligently developing strategies to help reverse the trend.  Lately there appears to be a more positive light at the end of the tunnel.  This issue has been given top priority by numerous agencies, organizations, and business leaders who are coming to the forefront by developing programs to retain our best and brightest.

Some prime examples of outstanding initiatives are:  Jewish Federation’s Gen Ex program, revitalization of Agree Downtown Synagogue, Moishe House, new technology opportunities through Wayne State University, and the business and cultural revitalization of Midtown and Downtown Detroit.  These positive efforts are already showing results as more young people in the twenties and thirties are now finding jobs in the Detroit area.  Most amazingly, many young people are now moving to lofts and apartments in the city to be close to work and all the sports, dining, and cultural offerings available to them.

Even with positive recent activity there is still so much left to do in order to guarantee that this trend does not begin reversing itself.  At Hebrew Free Loan, we are mindful of our responsibility to aggressively promote this agenda.  Therefore, with a generous gift from the Marvin I. Danto family, we have devoted a lot of time, effort, and financial resources toward assisting creative, innovative young adults reach their career goals.  Interest free loans from HFL are helping launch new businesses and expand the scope of existing businesses.  For students currently studying in university, HFL is working diligently to strengthen its loan program in the hope that they will remain as contributing citizens in metro Detroit.

Hebrew Free Loan is committed to fulfilling this mission by working in close harmony with other Jewish and secular organizations.  All of our efforts are showing extremely positive results so sustained focus on this most important issue can only continue the positive momentum already in progress.

If you wish to help Hebrew Free Loan’s efforts, or learn more about the wonderful work of this outstanding agency, please visit the website, www.hfldetroit.org.  Executive director, David Contorer, would be happy to speak with you over the phone or in person and can be reached at, 248-723-8184.

Keeping the Tradition Alive

May 23rd, 2013

Blog authored by: Jessica Sherman

My family has always been involved with the Jewish Federation. As a teenager I struggled to find my place in keeping the tradition alive. Growing up I watched my great-grandfather, my grandmother, my parents and my siblings actively participate in philanthropic activities within the Jewish community. What I kept wondering was, how can I find a way to get involved in a way that is authentic to me?

When I moved back to Michigan after ten years away I was excited to see that there was a vibrant community of young Jewish adults who were interested in creating a community that I could be a part of. I wanted to steer away from the fundraising because it didn’t feel authentic to me. What I found instead was an actual community, a collection of individuals who were rooting for Detroit and finding new ways to participate in Jewish life.

From softball games, to bar nights, to friendraisers and comedy events, Jewish life in Detroit is fun and exciting. I’ve enjoyed discovering all  of the different organizations that are popping up all over the city and helping those in need. We get to spread the message in new ways, like sharing ideas on Facebook, tweeting out cool events around the city and asking for charitable donations from our friends to something we can really believe in.

The legacy and the tradition my family has created for me is clear, give to those that are close to your heart. When you become involved in a social way, as a volunteer, or even as an employee it moves you to want to give back to those who are in need. Not only that, but it instills a sense of duty in ones self. Even if you don’t have the same passions as your family or you’re not sure you can match their gifts, its best to give back in any way that you can.

So find a way that speaks to your heart and keep the legacy alive in any way that you can.