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 granted to help buy a sewing machine or a pushcart for fruits and vegetables. Throughout the 20th century, the Jewish Free Loan Association has played a vital role in the community, as an original member of Community Chest in 1927, the precursor to the United Way. In 1929, the Jewish Free Loan Association moved into the Federation of Jewish Welfare building and has since remained a beneficiary agency of The Jewish Federation.
During World War II, the Jewish Free Loan Association was instrumental in helping thousands of families get a fresh start in the US; after the Watts riots in 1965, the Jewish Free Loan Association assisted businesses in rebuilding; in the late 1980′s, with the rising costs of higher education, the Jewish Free Loan Association created the first of its many student loan funds; and in 1994, in the wake of the Northridge earthquake, the Jewish Free Loan Association granted cash loans to those who had to vacate their homes or who could not access bank accounts.
The Jewish Free Loan Association remains the only interest-free lending agency in greater LA County serving the working poor who subsist just above the poverty level and are able to pay back small loans over a few years. The Jewish Free Loan Association’s clients have nowhere else to turn. An interest-free loan is a critical factor in their lives that provides essential support for the client or their family.
The Jewish Free Loan Association’s traditional caseload of the working poor has expanded in recent years to include clients in the middle class as they struggle to provide for their families during the economic downturn. Many of the clients served in this caseload lost their jobs and either took lower paying positions or went back to school to retrain.
The Jewish Free Loan Association serves an average of 1,200 clients annually. There is currently more than $12 million in interest-free loans circulating through the community, assisting those in need. The Jewish Free Loan Association prides itself on a greater than 99% repayment rate.
The Jewish Free Loan Association’s interest-free loans are used for emergencies of all kinds, housing and rental issues, home