Partner Spotlight: Hebrew Free Loan

Hebrew Free Loan is a nonprofit that promotes self-sufficiency and financial responsibility in the Northern California Jewish community. The organization provides interest-free loans to Jewish individuals and families throughout Northern California. Loans help people overcome challenging financial situations or realize lifelong dreams. Loan types include business, debt consolidation, emergency, first time homebuyer, health care, special needs, student, and more. Read more in our Partner Spotlight with Hebrew Free Loan below!

What is the history behind starting Hebrew Free Loan?

Our story began in San Francisco in 1897. Guided by Jewish values, nine founding members each pledged to contribute 25 cents a month until they had enough capital to start a loan fund. Their first zero-interest loan of $5 helped an immigrant vendor buy a pushcart. Since our repayment rate is 99.75%, we like to think that those funds are being recycled to this day. We now have over 1,000 active loans circulating in the community, totaling $9.5 million.

Hebrew Free Loan was born out of the need to lend a hand to new Jewish immigrants resettling in San Francisco from Eastern Europe. Due to anti-Semitic restrictions, many banks refused to provide loans to Jews, so members of the Jewish community relied on each other for support.

Our loan recipients have included refugees from World Wars I and II; those escaping from behind the Iron Curtain in the 1950s and ‘60s; and waves of immigrants from the Soviet Union in the last quarter of the 20th century. Today, among others, we help hardworking students afford an education, would-be parents pursue adoption or fertility treatment, the recently unemployed manage their expenses, and entrepreneurs launch or expand their businesses.

Hebrew Free Loan President, Sharon Silverman, with Senator Scott Weiner, presenting Hebrew Free Loan with a CA Senate Resolution commending the agency for 120 years of service to the community.

How does providing zero-interest loans to the community help San Francisco’s economic development?

Our interest-free loans have a ripple effect that reaches far beyond the individual loan recipient. In particular, our business loan program helped establish and expand many enterprises in San Francisco which have, in turn, created employment opportunities for hundreds of people. Philz Coffee Truck, Frena Bakery & Café, Avital Tours, Petals: A Flower Studio, and Zest Books are among numerous San Francisco businesses that Hebrew Free Loan has supported.

Beyond business loans, our services stimulate economic development by encouraging self-sufficiency and fiscal responsibility. We help people achieve major milestones, such as buying their first home or attaining higher education, without incurring high-interest debt. This keeps more capital circulating throughout the local economy and lays the foundation for a more sustainable future.

How does Hebrew Free Loan partner with other businesses in the San Francisco community?

Our Business Circle program brings together local business owners to gain visibility and build customer loyalty while investing in Hebrew Free Loan’s community programs. Business Circle members support the agency and make it possible for other entrepreneurs to receive interest-free business loans, while promoting their own businesses to the entire Hebrew Free Loan community: donors, guarantors, and loan recipients. Member benefits are tailored to individual business needs.

Business loan recipients at our 1st Annual Business Circle Luncheon in March 2017.

What are some other ways that Hebrew Free Loan gives back to the community?

As a social service nonprofit, everything we do is intended to give back to people in need. In addition to supporting the Jewish community, Hebrew Free Loan established the Nonsectarian Student Loan Program in 2014 to reach out to the broader community. This program provides interest-free loans, on a nonsectarian basis, to lower income students pursuing higher education. Applicants are referred to us by local youth development organizations. The program has assisted 47 students so far, and most are the first in their families to attend college.