Our History

A Lifeline For
Over 120 Years

The Hebrew Free Loan Society of New York City was founded in 1892 by ten leaders of the Jewish immigrant community on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. With initial working capital of $95, the Society started issuing interest-free loans of 50 cents, payable in ten weekly installments of a nickel.

At a time when there was no government-funded safety net, the Hebrew Free Loan Society became a lifeline for those facing eviction, hunger, illness, and a host of other financial challenges.

This form of philanthropy, now commonly referred to as Jewish microfinance, has grown out of an age-old tradition that believes helping people become self-sufficient is the highest form of charity.

Over the past 120 years, HFLS has provided over $270 million in loans to more than 875,000 borrowers. We currently have $11 million in loans outstanding to nearly 2,000 borrowers in the New York City community. Today, and since our founding, the repayment rate on our loans is an astonishing 99%.

As loans are repaid, our capital is lent out again and again, giving us the potential to help an unlimited number of people in perpetuity. We continue to raise funds to meet the evolving needs of the New York City community and help more people transform their lives.


Biblical References to Interest-Free Lending

“If you lend money to My people, even to the poor among you , do not act toward them as a creditor; you shall not charge them interest.” – Exodus 22:24

“You shall not lend him your money at interest, or give him your food for profit.” – Leviticus 25:37