History

In the Beginning…

Menachem Cohen, one of the original founders of Hebrew Free Loan, and President from 1897-1900

Menachem Cohen, one of the original founders of Hebrew Free Loan, and President from 1897-1900

The year was 1897. Nine members of San Francisco’s small but long-established Jewish community gathered in a small synagogue South of Market Street. Their task — to develop an ongoing plan to help Jewish immigrants to San Francisco build new lives.

Guided by the interest-free lending mandate in the Torah, these nine founding members pledged to start a loan fund by contributing 25 cents every month. When the fund grew to $50 the first interest-free loan was made. This fund eventually become known as Hebrew Free Loan.

Easing the Way for New Immigrants…

An early business loan borrower, who used Hebrew Free Loan funds to start a pharmacy

Noel Waxman, an early business loan borrower, who used Hebrew Free Loan to start a pharmacy

Over the years Hebrew Free Loan has helped ease the way for various waves of Jews who migrated to the Bay Area, including those from Eastern Europe in the early 1900s; refugees from World Wars I and II; those escaping Communist countries in the 1950s and ’60s; and the huge wave of Jews from the former Soviet Union in the last quarter of the 20th century.

Helping Dreams Come True…

Dad and baby

Present-day loan recipient

Today, of course, the issues are different and the financial needs much greater. Among others,  Hebrew Free Loan helps first-generation students to afford an education, couples pursuing fertility assistance or afford an expensive adoption process, and the recently unemployed to manage their expenses.

As loans are repaid, funds are recycled to make new loans. We’ve proven the success of this model with a repayment rate of over 99%.