by Eric Hal Schwartz
In 1909 a group of 10 philanthropically minded Jewish residents of Washington, D.C., decided to put together a fund for Jews in need. ?eir pooled fund of $55 gave a leg
up to people in their community when they needed it. Today, their successors at the Hebrew Free Loan Association of Greater Washington (HFLA) continue their good
work, offering interest-free loans to Jewish adults and students for when they need a
“We give out a lot of student loans,” said Janet Stein, the president of the Hebrew Free
Loan Association of Greater Washington. Stein, who became president 16 years ago
ather her husband, the previous president, passed away, said that there are many reasons
people give for requesting a loan. Medical bills, car down payments, even legal and
adoption fees come up in the applications.
Graduate students or juniors or seniors in college in the D.C. area can apply for an up to $5,000 loan while nonstudents can ask for up to $10,000. ?e loans are not only interestfree but have a very low rate of payment back to the HFLA. ?e money itself comes from philanthropic contributors, and almost all of it is used for loans as the administrators of the HFLA work on a volunteer basis, meeting
once a month.
“We recycle the money,” Stein said. Anyone who is Jewish may apply to get a
loan. With an application explaining why they need the money and the willingness of
three Jewish co-signers to the loan, successful applicants may receive a check in the mail as soon as a month or two a?er applying. Stein added that the system used by the HFLA in Washington is not the same as other organizations of this kind of which many exist across the U.S.
“It’s nationwide, and they’re all run differently,” she said. The many Jewish students and others helped by the loans o?en end up making a big difference, Stein said, which is why she and the other members of HFLA are happy to contribute their time to running the organization, whose only cost comes from their voice mail account.
“There are so many different reasons to borrow,” she said, “the loan can really matter
To apply for a loan from the HFLA, visit hebrewfreeloandc.org or call 301-770-4836.