Our History

120 Years of JFLA


In 1904, a small group of businessmen met in the thriving city of Los Angeles to establish an organization to grant loans to the needy without interest or any other charges. These loans were made to help buy a sewing machine or a pushcart for fruits and vegetables. Throughout the 20th century, the Jewish Free Loan Association (JFLA) played a vital role in the community. In 1927 JFLA was an original member of Community Chest, the precursor to the United Way. In 1929, JFLA moved into the Federation of the Jewish Welfare building.

Historically JFLA played a vital role in the Los Angeles community. During World War II, JFLA was instrumental in helping thousands of families get a fresh start in the US. After the Watts riots in 1965, Jewish Free Loan assisted businesses in rebuilding. Throughout the late 70’s and 1980’s, JFLA continued its commitment to immigrants by supporting hundreds of Iranian Jewish refugees after the Iranian Revolution. Resettlement funds were also used in subsequent years as many Jews moved to the Los Angeles area following the fall of the Former Soviet Union.

Student Loan Funds

In the late 1980′s, with the rising costs of higher education, JFLA created the first of its many student loan funds with the establishment of the Edward Meltzer Student Loan Fund (1987). Since then, JFLA continues to meet the needs of students with a wide variety of student loan funds including:

graduate in cap and gown
  • Becker Graduate Student Loan Fund (1994)
  • Desser & Schimmel Medical Student Loan Fund (2002)
  • Schimmel Law Student Loan Fund (2002)
  • Stein Student Loan Fund (2002)
  • Parvin Foundation Applied Education Loan Fund (2003)
  • Kornfeld Accounting Student Loan Fund (2004)
  • Desser & Schimmel Law Student Loan Fund (2007)
  • Max Factor Public Health Students Loan Fund (2008)
  • Borun Student Nurse Loan Fund (2008)
  • Maurice Amado Foundation Student Loan Fund (2009)
  • Abecassis Student Loan Fund (2009)
  • Brandman Nursing Student Loan Fund (2010)
  • Lieblich Loan Fund for Music Students (2010)
  • Kohn Funds for the Arts (2011),
  • S. Mark Taper Foundation Environmental Studies Student Loan Fund (2011)
  • Molle Macro Medical Student Loan Fund (2013)
  • Rautenberg Foundation Student Loan Fund (2014)
  • Baran Macro Graduate Student Loan Fund (2016)
  • Glazer Jewish Student Loan Fund (2021)
  • S. Mark Taper Foundation Student LF (2022)

In 1994, in the wake of the Northridge earthquake, JFLA created the Earthquake Relief Loan Fund and provided loans to those who had to vacate their homes or who could not access their bank accounts.

The 2000s

Always trying to stay in front of the community’s needs, other critical funds were established including the following.

  • Ziegler Loan Fund for Special Needs (2006) offering funds to meet the needs of children with special needs, including behavioral support, diagnostic expenses, medical equipment, specialists and educational reimbursement.
  • Kopelove HomeHealth Care Loan Fund (2006) providing funds to keep patients at home instead of in hospitals by covering costs for durable medical equipment, ramps, in-home healthcare aids, home improvements, and other needs.
  • Los Angeles Micro-Lending Loan Fund at Magnolia Place (2012) to offer interest fee loans to primarily Latino families who live in and around the Magnolia Place Family Center (a Children’s Bureau program) in Pico Union.
  • Veterans Loan Fund (2012) – Wanting to do more for those who served our country, this loan fund offers loans for veterans’ physical and mental well-being including things such as housing, basic furniture, job training, and the purchase of a used vehicle or car repair.
  • Cedars Housing Stability Loan Fund (2018) – To help the community with the higher costs of housing in the LA area and to help prevent eviction, this fund offers loans for first and last month's rent, section 8 security deposits, basic furniture and other housing needs.
  • Westside Legacy Loan Fund (2020) – This important loan fund was established to help women and girls who reside on the Westside of Los Angeles with emergency needs.
  • Homeless Prevention for Automobile Dwellers (2022) – In an effort to help those living in their cars this loan fund offers to loans to help cover first and last month's rent, security deposit and other essentially to help Angelinos move into permanent housing.
  • Writer and Actors Loan Fund (2023) – This fund was established to help those affected by the writers and actors strikes and offers loans to help cover rent, medical and other critical living expenses.

In 2013, to meet the rising costs of IVF treatment, the Feit4KidZ Loan Fund was created with the generous support and vision of Alan and Emily Feit to relieve the financial burden that expenses related to fertility can place on men, women, and couples. The fund helps individuals who are struggling to pay for any treatments related to fertility; medications, ultrasounds, blood tests, egg freezing, donor eggs and sperm, IUI and IVF cycles and surrogacy.


In recent years, JFLA incorporated technological advancements to better serve clients. In 2018, JFLA implemented digitized record keeping and created an online application process.

The shift to online processes emerged as a significant game-changer during the COVID-19 crisis in 2020. JFLA responded promptly and efficiently by transitioning to remote work, and it has since evolved into a virtual agency. Several key adjustments were implemented to enhance operational efficiency. Client intake shifted to Zoom, providing a more accessible and convenient way to connect. Simultaneously, loan committee meetings transitioned to Zoom, allowing for streamlined decision-making processes. Additionally, the implementation of DocuSign facilitated smoother document handling. Direct deposit to client bank accounts was introduced, eliminating the need for paper checks, and the entire process is now conducted electronically. These adaptations showcase JFLA's commitment to innovation and efficiency in navigating the challenges posed by the pandemic, ensuring a seamless and secure experience for both clients and staff.

During the COVID 19 pandemics, JFLA continued to meet the needs of clients in crisis by adjusting the lending guidelines to make services more attainable. With many clients out of work, JFLA made many loans to families for emergency at home childcare (since children were out of school, but parents still had to go to work), and costs to cover technology like home computers, furniture and wi-fi access so families could work and study remotely. Since many clients lost employment and were unable to collect federal and state assistance, JFLA became a financial first responder by covering living expenses, helping with grocery store bills and energy costs. JFLA was also able to help families who needed to relocate due to COVID, had hospital and medical bills due to COVID, and even funeral costs.

JFLA was also instrumental in helping small businesses thrive during the economic downturn with the creation of the COVID-19 Small Business Loan Fund. JFLA offered loans to small business clients who needed to purchase safety and sanitation equipment to keep their businesses open. Jewish Free Loan demonstrated enhanced resilience during the challenging circumstances.

Always trying to meet the needs of clients JFLA learned that working virtually allowed for ease of client intake and reinvented itself as a virtual agency. During this time, JFLA noticed how many clients were applying for loans on their mobile phones versus desktop computers. Wanting to continue to meet clients where they are, in 2023, JFLA launched a mobile app providing a user-friendly interface and a simplified application to make the process quick and convenient for applicants.

Since our humble beginnings in 1904, JFLA remains the only interest-free lending agency in greater Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties and has $18million dollars of interest-free loan dollars circulating through the community, assisting people in need. JFLA not only prides itself on a repayment rate of 99.5%, but most importantly on making a lasting impact on the lives of so many in our community.


JFLA looks forward to successfully supporting the local community for another 120 years. As in the past, we can't do it alone. The generosity of donors is truly appreciated and has helped JFLA prove itself as a time-tested and trusted steward of philanthropic dollars. If you would like to help us continue our service, please consider donating.

JFLA Assistant