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We’re always excited for our former loan recipients to come “full circle.” When people repay their loans from Hebrew Free Loan of San Francisco and go on to become donors in their own right, they’re paying forward the help they received to assist others. But Anna Marx takes the idea of coming full circle to a whole new level.

In July 2023, Anna became Executive Director of the Hebrew Free Loan Society of Greater Philadelphia — one of our sister agencies that, like us, provides interest-free loans to help members of the Jewish community and beyond get through hard times and pursue their life dreams. Yet it wasn’t that long ago that Anna and her husband Jamie Marx needed assistance themselves.

“Hebrew Free Loan is so different than any other financial institution we ever worked with. We were treated with respect and dignity, and we never felt like a number in a system. It meant so much to us, as a young married couple, to feel the community showing up for us and helping us improve our future.” 

Anna and Jamie grew up in the Bay Area — she in Castro Valley and he in Concord. They met at Midrasha (a Jewish youth group in the East Bay), went to college together at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and got married a few years after graduation. When they came to us for help, Anna was studying for dual master’s degrees in Hebrew & Judaic studies and nonprofit management at New York University, and Jamie was in a five-year program at Hebrew Union College to become a cantor.

It wasn’t easy financially with both of them in graduate school at the same time, pursuing their shared passions for Judaism and Jewish education combined with music (in Jamie’s case) and strategic management (in Anna’s). Our interest-free student loans allowed them to manage tuition and living expenses while they pursued their educations and built their careers. Just ten years after receiving their first student loan from us, Anna and Jamie made their final loan payment.

“It was shocking (in a great way) to get the letter from Hebrew Free Loan of San Francisco telling us that our loan was fully paid off. It went so fast, in the grand scheme of things, and paying off the loan was incredibly gratifying. ‘Oh my gosh, we did it!’ we said to each other. And we were thrilled to make a Full Circle donation that pays it forward to help others.” 

Becoming Executive Director of the Philadelphia Hebrew Free Loan made perfect sense for Anna. She had been working for Jewish nonprofits all along, and when she and Jamie moved to the area ten years ago for his job as Cantor at Temple Sholom in Broomall, a suburb of Philadelphia, she learned there was a free loan agency in the area. When their executive director retired last year, Anna was excited to apply for the job.

She had fond remembrances of the love and care she experienced in her interactions with the San Francisco Hebrew Free Loan, especially with her loan officer, Beth Blackman, who passed away in 2021. This played a strong role in Anna’s desire to lead the Philadelphia Free Loan agency.

When Anna describes her work at Hebrew Free Loan Society of Greater Philadelphia, it’s clear how much fulfillment the work brings her. Whether she’s helping an elderly Holocaust survivor get a loan to take care of her ill son or assisting a domestic violence victim to get into a safer living situation, she’s motivated by a desire to extend the same kind of compassion that she and Jamie received when they needed loans to support their educational goals.

The Philadelphia area has become home to Anna, Jamie, and their two children (Eli, 13 and Isaac, 10), and they are building a rich, full life embedded in the Jewish community there. But their families still live in the Bay Area, and California will always be their home too. Their supportive and loving community stretches from the West Coast to the East Coast, woven of the same Jewish values that supported them when they were starting out.

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