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When Rachel and Steve Thomas got married last month in a Sacramento park, their immediate family were the only guests, due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The ceremony unfolded beneath a chuppah held up by wooden poles that are part of the Camp Tawonga community, where Rachel and Steve met in their mid-20s when both were on staff. After three summers working alongside each other to create a magical, nurturing experience for campers, they settled in to build a life together.

Starting out in the midst of a pandemic isn’t easy. Rachel and Steve both went back to school recently, and interest-free loans from Hebrew Free Loan have been key to navigating the ups and downs of life during Covid.

“Hebrew Free Loan has provided me with a huge amount of security. With their support, I felt comfortable going back to school to build a stable, meaningful career that will let me give back to the community.” – Steve

Rachel’s passions are working with children and building Jewish community. She’s worked at The Kitchen in San Francisco and the Jewish Federation of Sacramento, in addition to Camp Tawonga. This fall she’s entering a master’s program in maternal and child nutrition at UC Davis, to become a lactation consultant.

Steve was a “theatre kid” who majored in theatre and drama at college, and worked as an actor for a number of years. Eventually he longed to make a different kind of impact on the world. Steve loves to think and talk about history, politics, and social justice, and he wants to encourage young people to do the same. He’s now two thirds of the way through his master’s program in education, also at UC Davis, and he has committed to teaching in underserved communities.

But the finances of all this have been complicated. Rachel had hoped to earn extra money this spring and summer working as a doula in a hospital. Because of the pandemic, that was no longer an option. Steve has no idea what schooling will look like when he finishes his degree in December, or whether school districts will even be hiring. Our loans are giving Rachel and Steve some assurance that they can get through the year and weather any delays in finding employment.

“I’m so grateful to Hebrew Free Loan for the opportunity to pursue the education and career of my dreams. It’s a privilege to have the support of my community and pass that on to others.” – Rachel

It’s not that common for both spouses to receive student loans from us at the same time, but it does happen, especially when they started getting our support before they were married. For Rachel and Steve, Hebrew Free Loan has become a family affair, part of the fabric of their extended community. They look forward to getting through the pandemic and coming out the other side in a position to give back to the community that has nurtured them.

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