The Metro Detroit August Flood: It Hit Home at Hebrew Free Loan

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Homes damaged. Families hopelessly watching as water rose in their basements, damaging furniture, walls and priceless memories and belongings. It was dubbed “floodmageddon.”

On August 11, 2014, thousands of southeast Michigan residents experienced a intense rainstorm that dropped up to 6.3 inches of water over the course of a few hours. Roads flooded — stranding motorists — and neighborhood storm and sewage systems were overwhelmed, creating a surge of contaminated water in low-lying living spaces.


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Hundreds of members of our Jewish community (like me, Hebrew Free Loan’s Executive Director David Contorer) who live in the Huntington Woods, Royal Oak, Berkley and Oak Park areas – and other communities in Oakland, Wayne and Macomb counties — were inundated with flood water around our cars and in our basements. As a result, there is an unprecedented amount of property damage to autos and homes and a public health nightmare could be waiting for those families who do not properly and thoroughly clean up the water and sewage left behind.

But for many Jewish families, help is available.


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Hebrew Free Loan (HFL) is a key part of our Jewish community’s response to this disaster. In close partnership with the Jewish Federation and Jewish Family Service, HFL has already expedited our loan review process to efficiently help those who have had property damage. HFL’s Executive Committee unanimously agreed to put this emergency plan into action to show our organization’s sense of urgency to help those in these dire conditions. Our Jewish Federation will back some of the riskier loans (that would not be approved during HFL’s regular loan vetting process), because our community is focused on helping those in need now without bureaucracy or excuses.


The process goes like this for Jewish community flood victims who need assistance paying for basement cleaning (tear-outs, restoration, anti-microbial spray), repair or replacement of damaged furnaces, water heaters, washers and dryers and other urgent costs. If you or someone you love in the Jewish community has been affected, please contact the Jewish Assistance Network (JAN) at (248) 592-2650, where helpful responders (from Jewish Family Service) will refer those in need to immediate assistance at either Hebrew Free Loan or to Jewish Family Service (for those families who may not be in the position to take out a loan).

At HFL, our team of caring and dedicated staff and volunteer leaders will take client information and (within a week) have a response with next steps towards securing an interest-free loan that will pay for the clean-up and repair for borrowers.

I could not be more proud of HFL’s board members who have come to the agency to spend hours on intake phone calls from flood victims (side by side with our HFL professional team).


HFL’s mission is to “provide loans and promise dignity” and you can hear the sighs of relief as we execute this mission from the dozens of flood victims who say things like, “Thank G-d you are here! I am so thankful for what you are doing to help us!”

The flood waters have receded and I know I’m not the only one with a ruined skeleton of a basement, haunted by wood studs and concrete floors. Hundreds of members of our Jewish community have basements that look like mine. Three or four cycles of once-beautiful furnishings and collectibles have been picked up at the curb, making our neighborhoods appear to be war zones. The cost of clean-up and repair will be enormous and no family in our community planned to spend these thousands of dollars (that most people do not have as liquid cash-flow in the best of circumstances).

Yet, thanks to Hebrew Free Loan, Jewish Family Service and our Jewish Federation’s coordinated efforts, we are going to help each family to get things cleaned up and get back to normal as soon as possible.


For more information on how to get help, please visit our Web site or call us at 248-723-8184. We can also be reached via email at

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