Aiming To Boost Small Businesses, Free Loan Agency Set Sights On Chasidic Community – Vos iz neias
Author: Sandy Eller
New York – An agency that has been offering interest free loans to those in need for over 100 years has recently set its sights on a particular demographic, Brooklyn’s chasidic community, lending over $1.5 million dollars over the past several years to locally owned businesses.
“Our history has always been lending money for general emergency needs and helping very small businesses,” Shana Novick, executive director of the Hebrew Free Loan Society, told VIN News. “You want to make those interest free loans to the people who need it the most and increasingly, studies are showing that the largest group of poor Jews in the city is the chasidic community.”
While they may be called micro-loans in today’s terminology, the concept of lending seed money to small businesses is nothing new, according to Novick.
“We are 120 years old and when I speak to people in the general community they don’t know about gamachs and gemilas chesed, but what we do comes out of centuries of Jewish tradition. In fact, our original corporate name was the Hebrew Gemilas Chasadim Association.”
The Hebrew Free Loan Society was founded at Manhattan’s Vilna Synagogue in 1892 with just $95 of working capital and 25 years later, it became one of the founding organizations of what would later become the UJA – Federation. While the HFLS is a non-sectarian agency, according to Novick, it has always focused on the needs of the Jewish community.