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Regina Jefferson felt like she had been drowning in credit card debt for years when she came to Hebrew Free Loan. Finding out that she and her husband could get an interest-free debt consolidation loan to pay off almost all of their high-interest credit cards was an enormous relief.

“I felt like I could breathe again. Removing the crushing burden of interest payments has enabled me to focus on my family and career without the nagging fear that I could never get ahead.”

Regina learned about Hebrew Free Loan’s financial assistance for employees of Jewish organizations through JVS, where she had recently been promoted to Manager of Program Development. Getting to that place of stability was a long road for Regina, who grew up poor in San Francisco.

Regina’s parents divorced when she was young, and her mother didn’t stay in her life. She also became estranged from her father when he remarried, and she’s been working and on her own since she was 16. Her daughter Natalia was born when Regina was 20, after she got her GED and started taking classes at City College.

Regina raised her daughter mostly on her own in those early years, until she reconnected with David, a friend from childhood. He too had been on his own since the age of 16, after both his parents passed away, and he spent time in prison as a young man.

Regina and David were both determined to turn their lives around, and they’ve supported each other — and Regina’s daughter Natalia — through thick and thin. Regina went to City College and then San Francisco State to earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s in cognitive psychology. She loves her job at JVS, which allows her to help others transform their lives, and she’s delighted to also be teaching and conducting research at SF State.

David drove a taxi for many years, working 12-hour days to provide a home for their family. He’s now taking classes at City College and aims to become a community health worker. Natalia is almost 19, and she’s in school as well, working and thriving.

Neither Regina nor David ever expected to go to college, and they’re both proud and a little astonished by the life they’ve built together and the progress they’ve made toward their goals. But their high-interest credit card debt was the legacy of those years of financial struggle.

When they were living hand to mouth, struggling to make the rent and pay for food and other necessities, they sometimes had no choice but to use credit cards to cover their living expenses. As the interest compounded and the balances grew, it became a vicious cycle that seemed almost impossible to escape until they learned about Hebrew Free Loan. Regina feels honored to be included in the circle of trust and support provided by the Jewish community, and the concept of tikkun olam (repairing the world) has new meaning for her.

“It’s inspirational to know there are people in the world that really care for their community and don’t ask for anything in return. It makes such a difference to be debt-free from those corporations. Now we can save our hard-earned money and start to build our future.”

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