The routine has been fixed for more than 45 years: everyone grabs a cup of coffee, a guest teacher introduces the Torah portion of the week, and the discussion begins. After an hour of animated conversation and the occasional personal reflection, everyone chips in $1 for tzedakah* and leaves to start their day.

Hebrew Free Loan hosts this independent group in our conference room every Friday morning at 8:00 AM. It provides a living link to our own beginnings in 1897, when nine men in a Torah study group south of Market decided to start an interest-free loan fund. Guided by the Torah’s mandate for interest-free lending, each contributed 25 cents a month until they had enough to make their first loan: $5 to help an immigrant Jewish vendor buy a pushcart.

122 years later, we like to imagine those quarters are still in circulation, helping people throughout our community with needs that our founders couldn’t imagine: tuition at a tech boot camp to learn computer coding, fertility treatments to start a family, even the purchase of a secondhand car to commute to work.

We can’t yet envision what needs Hebrew Free Loan will be assisting with 122 years into the future. But we’re confident that with our community’s support, we’ll be here embodying Jewish values and assisting individuals and families to become and remain self-sufficient.

In the meantime, we encourage anyone who’s curious to learn more about Jewish texts or ideas to drop in any Friday morning (except Jewish holidays). Guest teachers span the spectrum of Jewish practice and include rabbis, cantors, scientists, lawyers, and academics. If you have questions, please contact Jamie Hyams, Development Director at (415) 546-9902 x106 or jamie@hflasf.org

* “Tzedakah” is Hebrew for “justice” or “righteousness,” but is commonly used to signify charity.