Frequently Asked Questions
Everything you need to know about HFLS.
Everything you need to know about HFLS.
The Hebrew Free Loan Society’s work is the 21st century expression of an ancient Jewish tradition that sees helping people become financially independent as the highest form of philanthropy. Ten leaders of the Jewish immigrant community on Manhattan’s Lower East Side drew on this tradition and founded the Hebrew Free Loan Society of New York City in 1892.
HFLS is a nonprofit, 501c3 organization. Like other nonprofits, HFLS fundraises from individuals and foundations to fund our operations.
Because our repayment rate is so high (over 99.9%!), our loan capital is repaid and lent out again and again, multiplying the number of people helped by the same dollars many times over. When a borrower repays their HFLS loan in full, they make it possible for someone else to benefit from those same funds.
HFLS borrowers are low- and moderate-income individuals and families who live in NYC’s five boroughs, Westchester, or Long Island. (Click here to view HFLS income limits.) They are facing a financial need or expense – be it surgery, college tuition, moving expenses or a rent deposit, starting a small business, fertility treatments, the purchase of a used car, or a range of other needs – that they can’t afford.
No. HFLS is non-sectarian; we do not ask about an applicant’s religious identity or affiliation. Our borrowers are people of all different faiths, and they hail from dozens of different countries.
HFLS and other free loan societies throughout North America serve local, limited geographic areas for a number of reasons: To make it possible to conduct in-person loan interviews with applicants; to foster a sense of community; and because of limited capital availability and capacity. As a UJA-Federation of NY Network Agency, HFLS serves the same catchment area as UJA-Federation. If you live outside the HFLS catchment area and are looking for an interest-free loan, visit the website of the International Association of Jewish Free Loans to view a list of all affiliated free loans in the US and internationally.
Guarantors are required so HFLS may turn to them to repay a loan if the borrower is unable to repay. Because HFLS does not charge any interest or fees and does not accept collateral, if a loan goes unpaid, HFLS loses that loan capital forever. HFLS would not be able to help as many people and would eventually run out of loan capital if there was no system in place to increase the likelihood of repayment. The guarantor system is the reason that HFLS has been able to maintain our loan capital over 125 years, making it possible for us to help nearly 875,000 borrowers.
To guarantee a loan, guarantors and their spouses must complete, sign, and date a one-page guarantor form and submit that form to HFLS (either directly or via the applicant whose loan they are seeking to guarantee). If the loan is approved, they will be required to sign the promissory note that HFLS will provide to the applicant.
Upon signing a promissory note, guarantors and their spouses are “jointly and severally liable” for the loan, meaning that HFLS may approach them to repay the loan in full or in part if the borrower is not paying. The promissory note is enforceable by law.
Your loan amount depends on the type of loan you apply for and the purpose of the loan. Most loans range from $5,000 to $30,000; Microenterprise Loans and Special Education Bridge Loans may be higher. Please click here for more information about our loan programs.
HFLS always pulls and reviews credit reports for guarantors to ensure there is a pattern of responsibility in paying their obligations (and for the Microenterprise Loan Program, to ensure they meet the minimum credit score requriement).
HFLS pulls credit reports for all Microenterprise Loan applicants and sometimes pulls credit reports for other loan applicants, depending upon the type of loan request and the applicant’s financial situation as discussed during their loan interview.
HFLS conducts loan interviews and reviews loan applications on a rolling basis. Once you have had your loan interview and submitted all required documents, HFLS will review your loan application. You will hear from a Loan Officer within one week if we require additional information to process your loan, and you will hear within two weeks by email or mail (your choice) whether your loan is approved or denied.
Please visit the How to Apply page to learn more about the loan process and applying for a loan.
Repayment amounts depend on the amount of the loan and the type of loan you borrow. Most loans are repayable in installments of $250-300 per month; however, Microenterprise (small business) Loans, Fertility Treatment Loans, and Adoption Loans may have higher repayments, as these loan amounts tend to be higher.
If a borrower is unable to repay their loan in a given month, they can reach out to HFLS to discuss their situation; HFLS may be able to reduce their loan repayments for up to three months. If they are not able to make any loan repayments, HFLS will contact their guarantors to repay the loan. If the borrower and their guarantors do not repay the loan, HFLS will send the borrower and guarantors to collections.
There are lots of ways to support HFLS’s work and become part of our community.
1. Click here to make a donation to join us as we work together to help New Yorkers in need. Every $1 we raise helps us lend $7.
2.Celebrate with HFLS
The next time you celebrate a major milestone, whether it’s a special birthday, an anniversary or a Bat or Bar Mitzvah, consider making HFLS part of the experience. We will work with you to create a personalized journey where you can help raise money, volunteer, and learn more about HFLS and the New York Jewish community. Click here for more information.
Questions? Email: Celebrations@hfls.org
3. Create a Lasting Legacy
By including HFLS in your will, you are helping to ensure that together, we are able to be there for New Yorkers in need for generations to come.
If you have already named HFLS as a beneficiary, please let us know. We would love to thank and acknowledge your support. Click here for more information. Questions? email: Legacy@hfls.org
4) Stay Informed. Sign up for the HFLS email list by entering your email in the field at the top of this webpage and like HFLS on Facebook here. You’ll get updates about the impact of our loans, new programs, public events, and ways to advocate for fair and affordable credit.
5) Get Involved. If you’re in your 20s or 30s, email nextgen@HFLS.org to join the Next Gen Network, a group of socially-conscious young professionals who believe in the power of interest-free loans to transform peoples’ lives. You’ll be invited to events and programs specifically for young professionals.
Yes, all donations to HFLS are tax deductible. If you are purchasing a ticket for an HFLS event and a portion of the ticket price is not tax-deductible, this will be indicated on the ticket purchase page or invitation.