See the full article in The St. Louis Jewish Light.
(St. Louis, April 19, 2023) – Jewish Federation of St. Louis has relaunched its interest-free loan program for the Jewish community of St. Louis.
The loan program was first established in 1912 and became part of the Jewish Federation in 1942. The initial purpose of this fund was to “make small loans to those who were unable to borrow from banks and who needed assistance to start in business, many of them being junk peddlers, hucksters, etc.” (from minutes in archives from 1939). This small program has been in existence since that time and loans have been funded by an endowment held by the Jewish Federation.
An interest-free loan program is guided by our Jewish values, which can be found in the Torah parsha, Mishpatim, which states: if you lend money to MY people, to the poor among you, do not act toward them as a creditor; exact no interest from them. Maimonides, one of the most prolific and influential Torah scholars of the Middle Ages, said that a loan is better than charity for it enables one to help oneself with dignity.
The pandemic provided the Jewish Federation with a new opportunity to re-envision this loan program as it offered another way to address a high priority area of the Federation to provide a “safety net for people experiencing temporary hardship due to unanticipated crises or unexpected life challenge.” As a result, the Federation committed additional financial and human resources to this loan program and, in October of 2021, the Federation Board approved the formation of a new Loan Committee, and Dan Friedman, Vice President for North American Sales and Business Development for Integral Holdings, was appointed as its first chair.
The Loan Committee met regularly for several months towards the end of 2021 and 2022 to develop new guidelines for this loan program, based on the best practices from similar loan programs from around the country as well as support from the national organization, the International Association of Jewish Free Loans (IAJFL). These guidelines were approved by the Federation’s Board at their meeting in March of 2022. The Federation has also recently hired a part time staff person, Jennifer McGroty, to manage the day-to-day operations of the loan program. The result of all these efforts is a newly imagined loan program, with new branding and a new website: An application for a loan can now be securely and confidentially completed on-line.
The St. Louis Jewish Loan Association offers one type of interest-free loan program to the Jewish Community, called a “General Needs Loan.” A General Needs Loan can include, but not be limited to any of the following types of needs: medical and dental, mortgage or rent payments, home repairs, legal fees, funeral expenses, vehicle purchases and repairs, taxes, education, Jewish life cycle celebrations, Jewish summer camp, general living expenses, credit card debt, adoption, and small business loans.
Interest-free loans of up to $5,000 are available, payable over 36 months. Borrowers must demonstrate an ability to repay the loan and they will be required to provide one guarantor as part of their loan application. Lori Kabrun-Berry, Director of Foundations, who supervises the loan program, shared that “the beauty of this loan program is that the funds are recycled so as people repay their loans, these funds become available again to new borrowers for years to come.”
This program is a three-year pilot project of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis, and it is anticipated that it will evolve and change over time as the Loan Committee learns more about the unmet needs of the borrowers, based on the data that it collects.
For more information about the loan guidelines and/or for answers to any other questions about the loan program, please check out the website at https://www.stljla.org/ or contact the St. Louis Jewish Loan Association at 314-442-3755 or firstname.lastname@example.org.