It’s Uzbekistan in the year 2000 and anti-Semitism is on the rise.Two Jewish professionals and their children, ages 13, 8, and 1, receive green cards to come to the US. They speak no English and have no idea how they will make a living, but they leave with hopes for a better life. Settling in New York, the mother, a bookkeeper in Uzbekistan, conquers the English language, even earning a BA in Business Administration while working and raising a family. The father, a Jewish communal professional in Uzbekistan, finds a blue-collar job handling inventory for a retail store. In 2014, their middle child, Svetlana, is 21 and working towards a BA in Accounting at St. John’s University. Her father insists she not graduate from college with debt, so they explore options to help pay for her education. Through a friend, they learn about the Hebrew Free Loan Society and its student loan program. The $7,500 interest-free loan that Svetlana’s parents received from HFLS made all the difference. With her bachelor’s in hand, Svetlana pursued a master’s to further her career. This time, she turned to HFLS herself, borrowing $10,000 interest-free. Payments were an easily affordable $25 a month while she was in school. Today, Svetlana has a new husband, a new baby, and a full-time position with a major tax and auditing firm beginning in January. Without HFLS, this American dream might never have happened.
David, 24, was born and bred in Brooklyn, the son of immigrants from Ukraine who came to the US in 1984. A graduate of Brooklyn College (Summa Cum Laude and on the Dean’s List), he has his sights set on becoming a tax accountant. It’s clear that he is his family’s hope for a brighter future. Because of health problems, David’s father is on Social Security Disability, and his mother, who worked in a beauty salon, was laid off and unable to find work. David lives with them and works part-time as a bookkeeper at a pharmacy to help pay the bills, but his income is not nearly enough to cover graduate school tuition and support the family. This year, David received a $10,000 HFLS student loan to cover the cost of his studies at Baruch College, where he is working towards a master’s degree in taxation. The epitome of the American dream, David is not only in a graduate program while balancing a part-time job as a bookkeeper, but he has also volunteered his time to assist veterans in preparing their tax returns. He recently passed the first part of the CPA exam and is currently looking for a full-time position in his field. This son of two immigrants is fulfilling his dream through determination, hard work, and a little help from the Hebrew Free Loan Society.
As the mother of three energetic youngsters, Yocheved knows how much time women spend on their feet, and therefore the importance of having flat, comfortable shoes.
To supplement her family’s modest income, she worked full-time until her third child was born. She then realized that creating a home-based business could help ensure her family’s economic stability. A family friend introduced Yocheved to a Spanish shoe company offering a wide variety of flats and comfortable, sturdy shoes. Yocheved turned this introduction into a business opportunity. In 2013, she opened EuroStepsUSA, importing shoes wholesale for Haredi women. EuroSteps offers women a wide range of high quality, reasonably priced, European-made shoes, which had been difficult to find locally. Because Yocheved, like all wholesalers, must pay for inventory in advance, she approached HFLS for a loan to buy her first collection of shoes and initiate her first marketing campaign.
Her interest-free $25,000 microenterprise loan set her on the path to success. The initial order flew off the shelves of retail stories throughout metropolitan New York.Yocheved is already preparing for a very busy spring/summer season, even adding a children’s line and higher-end women’s dress shoes.
What’s more important to a 14-year old girl than that feeling of thriving in school, of really belonging? Linette, an eighth grader from Brooklyn, never felt she belonged. From the very beginning, learning was hard for her. She just didn’t “get” what they were teaching, and in third grade she was held back and had to repeat the year. Even a charter school did not provideLinette with a learning environment suited to her learning style.
An educational evaluation, which revealed reading and writing disorders in addition to ADHD, recommended that Linette be placed in a small, structured learning environment where she could master the strategies she needed to succeed. The Department of Education, an overburdened system, was unable to quickly implement this recommendation and take all the steps necessary to place Linette in an appropriate private setting with city funding. Every passing day added to both Linette’s anxiety and her struggles in the classroom.
Thanks to our partnership with Advocates for Children, the Hebrew Free Loan Society was able to provide Linette’s mother with a loan for a tuition deposit at a private school geared to her daughter’s specific learning needs, allowing Linette to start this year – finally – at a school that teaches to the way she learns. This loan, which will ultimately be repaid to HFLS with Department of Education funds, has allowed this eighth grader to finally understand what it means to learn, and to belong.
MEET STEVE & LIZ
Thousands of New Yorkers were affected by the recession and its aftermath. In 2008, Steve was laid off from his position as Managing Director at a real estate consulting firm. In 2012, Liz was laid off from her role as Vice President and Senior Human resources Consultant at a large financial institution.
The two met at an outplacement service. Liz told Steve about an entrepreneurship course run by the Hebrew Free Loan Society and funded by UJA-Federation of New York, offering baby boomers the skills needed to start a new business.
That course, now called “Encore Entrepreneurs,” taught them valuable basic business skills, ranging from setting realistic financial goals to pricing to social media and e-commerce marketing. In addition, Steve added, “the camaraderie, support, and honest feedback within the class were added benefits.”
While each initially intended to start a separate consulting firm, what they learned during the course
made them realize that if they aligned professionally, they might be even more successful.
Today, they run the Felix / Weiner Consulting Group, a growing consulting firm providing presentation coaching to mid- and high-level executives in the US and Europe.
D’Andre is an 18-year old with dyslexia who lives in Harlem with his grandparents. When his grandfather turned to Advocates for Children for assistance, D’Andre was reading at a first grade level and repeating ninth grade for the fourth time. Through our partnership with Advocates we provided bridge loans to cover the cost of a highly specialized reading tutor in advance of final determination of his eligibility for government support. With intensive tutoring, D’Andre made tremendous progress, and in just six months reached a fourth grade reading level. Were it not for those loans, D’Andre would still be waiting to receive the help he so desperately needed to make academic progress. We’re pleased to report D’Andre is now studying to complete his high school equivalency test.
MEET JOEL & YAEL
As a certified personal trainer who has worked at a top New York gym, Joel Gottehrer had a passion for fitness he was eager to share with his Haredi community in Boro Park. When he opened Better Health Studios in a 400-square-foot basement in 2010, he found there was quite a market for Haredi men who want to improve their health, lose weight, or reduce stress. In 2011, the business relocated to an 1800-square-foot storefront, but the location was plagued with recurrent facility problems. In order to relocate and renovate a new gym, Joel came to HFLS for a loan. At around the same time, his wife, Yael, enrolled in the HFLS Basic Business Course for Haredi Women. Thanks to a microenterprise loan from HFLS, Joel was able to move to a 2300-square-foot location this year, providing a state-of-the-art health club for his clients. Using the knowledge she gained from the HFLS course, Yael helps run the business, focusing on finances and marketing. Today Joel and Yael have seen their client base grow, and the business continues to flourish in its new space.
MEET HESHY & ETTY
Heshy, 31, is a chef who runs Celebrity Events NY, a high-end glatt kosher catering business. After years of subletting someone else’s kitchen, he came to HFLS for a loan to buy used kitchen equipment to open his own commercial kitchen. This would allow for more space, better hours of operation, and the ability to turn around last-minute orders quickly, something his competitors aren’t able to do. In working to expand his catering operation, Heshy realized that it takes more than a chef to run a thriving business; so his wife, Etty, joined the business. Because Heshy provides the culinary know-how, both husband and wife thought Etty should concentrate on the business itself. Without any experience with office management, Etty signed up for the HFLS’s Basic Business Course for Haredi Women, which teaches participants to start or expand a small business. Taking that course changed the business and Etty’s life. According to Etty, each course session taught her a new concept and helped her apply it to her business. Although it entailed hours of hard work, taking Etty away from her three children, she loved doing research at the business library and using what she learned to benefit the growing company. When they signed the lease for their new space, Etty’s new negotiating skills came into play, allowing her to negotiate a savings of over $20,000 off their lease by getting free rent during the build out. With a loan from HFLS, they were able to put their kitchen designer to work and are now deep in the process of expanding their business, with the opening planned for the fall of 2014. Etty is extremely grateful for all she learned from the course. “This course has changed and shaped my identity as a legitimate, hard-working, realistic female business owner, one that has the tools and knowledge to go ahead and succeed!”
What little girl doesn’t love doing hair, playing with make-up, and dressing up? Hodaya, a Hasidic mother of six in Crown Heights, was that kind of girl. She found her niche at a young age, becoming an experienced dress designer, make-up artist, and wig maker. After ten years of making wigs at home and selling them to friends, Hodaya decided to turn her passion into a business to support her family and supplement her husband’s income from his job as a mashgiach (kosher supervisor). However, she lacked the business knowledge to take her home-based enterprise to the next level. HFLS’s Basic Business Course for Women provided that knowledge. In the course, Hodaya learned, among other things, to set competitive prices for her wigs that would ensure profitability; it also gave her the self-confidence to stick to those prices. With all her new skills and a $10,000 HFLS interest-free loan to cover start-up expenses, Hodaya opened her own storefront, Hodaya’s Boutique. The business is flourishing as her exquisitely designed wigs are becoming well known in the community through word-of-mouth and her smart use of social media. Hodaya plans to ultimately open a one-stop shop for brides, providing dresses, wigs, and makeup application.
MEET VICTOR & INNA
Victor and Inna, highly educated immigrants from Kiev, arrived in New York in the mid-nineties with a small child. They learned English, retrained, got decent jobs, worked hard, and saved. In 2009 they proudly purchased their first home, a five-minute walk from the shore in Staten Island. Sandy’s storm surge inundated their first floor with seven and a half feet of salt water, which took three days to recede. Flood insurance proceeds covered less than half of the estimated cost of repair. An unscrupulous contractor demanded a large deposit, but did very little work. Victor and Inna had borrowed from us several years ago when Victor was briefly unemployed. They turned to us again in Sandy’s aftermath. Our $10,000 loan helped them buy a new boiler, prime and paint the first floor walls, and install new floors. An SBA disaster loan will help them purchase new furniture. We referred them to the New York Legal Assistance Group for help with the contractor dispute. Immigrants from the Former Soviet Union (FSU) now make up almost a fifth of New York City’s Jewish population, and 43% of them live in or near areas that were significantly affected by Hurricane Sandy. The Society has been a resource for FSU immigrants for over two decades. We were proud to extend a hand up in this time of crisis.
MEET ERIC & ANGELA
As a child, Eric experienced a lot of trauma before being removed from his home and placed in a group home. Angela, who adopted 18-year-old Eric in September 2011, was determined to provide him not only with a loving, stable home but also with an appropriate education. But the large public high school that Eric attended exacerbated his emotional and behavioral issues. He retreated into himself, experienced repeated panic attacks, and ultimately stayed home altogether. Angela turned to Advocates for Children, a leading legal advocacy organization, which identified a small private school geared for teenagers like Eric. Its tuition of $40,000 a year is only slightly less than Angela’s annual salary as a social worker. A bridge loan from the Society helped get Eric get admitted, paying his tuition pending the Department of Education reimbursement to which Angela, with Advocates’ help, had become entitled. Eric’s new school has transformed his life. He is doing well academically, has started to make friends, and now aspires to go to college. In Angela’s words, “The loan from the Society made Eric’s education possible and, by making his education possible, made his future possible.”