Your IAJFL Newsletter

February 15, 2019
10 Adar I 5779
Issue No. 5
Photo courtesy of David Maialetti / The Philadelphia Inquirer

IAJFL Member Agencies  Offered 400+ Relief Loans During the Recent Government Shutdown

by Ginny Gendelman, et al.

After a standoff between the president and Congress over a border wall, the U.S. experienced the longest (35 days) partial government shutdown in history, resulting in about 800,000 workers not receiving paychecks.  In January, a number of IAJFL member agencies offered special loans with a streamlined process to help furloughed federal employees in their communities, including Atlanta (JIFLA), Austin, Dallas, South Florida, L.A., Milwaukee, New Jersey, NYC, N.E. Ohio, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, Tucson and Washington D.C.

The photo above shows HFLA of Greater Philadelphia immediate past president, Marshal Granor, making a loan to a federal worker.  Marshal shared, "The question is how to say “yes” when an opportunity arises. I am still recovering emotionally from making this happen. It was like watching a ballet as all the pieces came together, but the effort to go from zero to 100 MPH was something I have never experienced before. Incredible gift from a person who cares, and a team that kept saying yes. If you have a little time to read the press, some of the personal stories will rip at your heart."

Read the full story below. Click Here

IAJFL 2018 Conference Recap

by David Contorer

IAJFL President
Executive Director, Hebrew Free Loan, Detroit

Photo: Carolyn Tisdale, David Kirsch, Pam Torraco with David Contorer.
The New York Hebrew Free Loan Society (HFLS) played host to a terrific IAJFL conference in Manhattan on October 28-30, 2018.  HFLS reported that there were 90 attendees representing 30 free loan organizations from across the globe. We came together to share best practices and enjoy our annual IAJFL family reunion, as this event with its friendly atmosphere feels to many of us. 

The conference sessions focused on topics such as: new and adapted loan program ideas; innovative partnerships; venues and tactics for growing bequests, foundation grants and event proceeds; how to disburse more loan dollars across a wider landscape; building credit for selected borrowers; and archiving our treasures.  Two of the most popular subjects were finding new revenue streams and security in our sector.  The latter included keeping our organizations secure both physically and in cyberspace, with discussions on responding to a crisis, and appropriate responses to viral social media criticism. 

In addition to the formal sessions, new and seasoned friendships and great conversations flourished over breakfasts and lunches, during fun Manhattan group dinners, and at a Blue Man Group performance. Attendees came from as far as Australia, Israel, and Canada. We are truly a family of people committed to helping others in our communities by using shared ideas that can work anywhere.

Thank you, New York! We hope to see everyone again in Cleveland, September 8-10, 2019!

Photos from top left to right: IAJFL executive committee, Rabbi David Rosenn, Aviva Lubowsky, Doron Abramovici, David Angel, Michael Lustig. and David C., conference group activity, John Serry, Pam Torraco, Doron A., Gabriel Scherzer, Royce Roberts and Maura Roberts, David C., Blue Man, and Andy Weinberg.

Expanding Reach & Impact in Vancouver

by Joanna Wasel

Executive Director, Hebrew Free Loan Assn. of Vancouver

About eight months ago, the Hebrew Free Loan Association of Vancouver (HFLAV) began a strategic planning process with the goal of expanding our reach and impact. The first stage of this process involved gathering information from various members of our community. Over a two-month period we conducted countless meetings with board members, supporters, past borrowers and community professionals. The conversations were all extremely insightful and gave us a very good understanding of what we do well and, of course, what we could improve on.   With the information learned, HFLAV made the decision to overhaul our loan programs and limits, update our marketing strategy, and develop strategic partnerships with community organizations so that, together, we could meet our shared goal of helping people. The following outlines the specific areas where we made changes to HFLAV’s approach:
Loan Types & Limits:
Early on in our investigative process, we learned how diverse our borrowers' needs are and that our approach was limiting our ability to help some people in a meaningful way. Specifically, in some areas, HFLAV’s loan limits were simply too low to make a true impact on people’s lives, but we were not fully comfortable raising loan limits across the board. With this in mind, we created 16 different loan programs with limits of varying amounts. This allows us to alter requirements based on the type of loan and the risk involved.
Having 16 specific loan programs also means that we can engage in more targeted marketing. This ultimately saves valuable financial resources and increases our marketing effectiveness significantly. 
Through feedback, we also determined that our website and application process needed to be simplified to make it easier for potential borrowers to navigate. Specifically, while the current trend in web-design is based on “long page scrolling design” presented in story-like fashion, we believe our borrowers are better served with a more straightforward design. We created a simple landing page ( users can easily navigate with one click. While perhaps not as ‘exciting’ as other sites, the information is presented in a clear and concise way which has led to an increase in application submissions and a decrease in confusion.  
Community Relations:
After speaking with community leaders, we realized that our approach with other organizations was not as effective as it could be. In the past, we spent our time trying to explain how helpful our loans are and why they should encourage the people they serve to borrow from HFLAV. We learned that we were doing more talking than we were listening. Now when we approach an organization, we ask what we can do for them – not the other way around – and invite them to propose loan programs that would help them help their constituents.   

To solidify this new message, we invited over 30 community professionals to a special “Partnership lunch” where we again expressed our desire to work with them. The response to this was overwhelmingly positive and we have already been approached by several organizations wishing to create loan programs for children, families, students, and seniors.

One example of a new partnership program is with the local Jewish Family Services (JFS). In addition to the 16 loan programs we offer to the general community, HFLAV now has a specific loan program open exclusively to JFS clients. The goal of this program is to help members of our community learn to be self-sufficient. We offer a $500 loan with no guarantor. Applications are completed by the borrower with the help of their social worker who must endorse the application. Because the loan amounts are relatively small, and JFS has agreed to pay back half of whatever is owing if a borrower defaults, we are able to approve these loans quickly and with little risk. The results have been fantastic and, together with JFS, we are making a true impact on these borrower’s lives. They are learning that they need not rely on a hand-out and that they are very capable of taking out, and paying back, a loan. We, and JFS, couldn’t be more thrilled. 

We have been implementing our strategic plan for the past 5 months and are confident that by the 6 month mark HFLAV will have made more loans in that period than in the entire previous 12 months.

I invite anyone with questions to call me, as I would be delighted to speak with you. Feel free to reach out at 604-671-2136.

Click play > above to watch HFLAV's new video.

A Win-Win-Win-Win
Way to Acquire
Cost-Free Loan Capital

by Rabbi David Rosenn
Executive Director, Hebrew Free Loan Society of NYC

For Jewish Free Loan organizations seeking to grow, one of the main questions is: do we have enough money to lend to more borrowers? Our model of interest-free lending does not allow for “profits” that would help increase capital for lending, and when we raise funds, the focus is often on operating expenses, not growing our loan fund.

As a result, despite the large and growing need in our communities for accessible credit, our lending is limited by the amount of dollars in our loan pool. Facing exactly this dilemma, my colleagues and I at HFLS in New York began searching for new ways to acquire loan capital, and we hit upon the idea of partnering with a donor advised fund (DAF).

In the United States, DAFs are charitable vehicles that accept donations and hold these funds until the donor has made a decision about where to distribute them as grants to charitable organizations. Donors enjoy administrative convenience and tax advantages by conducting their grant making through the fund. Nearly every Jewish community in America has a DAF connected to or working in collaboration with its Jewish Federation. In New York, the largest Jewish DAF is called the Jewish Communal Fund.

When an individual donates money to a DAF, the DAF provides the individual with choices about where the money in their donor fund will be invested until it is given out in grants. Donors can choose among an array of investment options including stock funds, bond funds, and cash equivalents. Every year, about 80% of DAF funds stay in these DAF investment vehicles, and only about 20% is given out by fundholders in the form of grants. That’s a lot of charitable money sitting on the sidelines!

HFLS asked the Jewish Communal Fund if they would like to help fundholders achieve social impact with their money even before it goes out as grants. Here’s how it works: JCF fundholders can assign a portion of their account to the Social Impact Loan Fund. These funds are lent by JCF to HFLS at 0% for a period of two years. After two years are up, HFLS repays the money, or the donor can extend the loan for another two years.

So far, HFLS has received over $600,000 in new cost-free capital through this arrangement. True, we will have to repay the funds in two years, but we are hoping that the program becomes popular and new donors will be there to take the place of the first ones. This also gives us a two-year head start to raise new capital gifts. If neither of these methods to replace loans due to JCF comes to pass, we have a plan in place to step down lending as the repayment date nears.

This is an arrangement with at least four winners: the DAF wins because it can offer a social impact option to donors; donors to the DAF win because they can extract more mitzvah value from their charitable funds; Hebrew Free Loan wins because we get access to cost-free capital and exposure to DAF donors; and our borrowers win because more of them can access interest-free loans.

My colleagues and I at HFLS NY would be happy to speak with anyone interested in understanding more about our model. We are excited that HFLA San Francisco and JFLA Los Angeles are already in conversation with their local Jewish DAFs.


Building Credit with Interest Free Loans

by Katy Fuerst

HFLA of Northeast Ohio

Credit affects our daily lives, and yet it is something that most of us do not even think about! Individuals with good credit histories and high credit scores have increased access to capital through credit cards and traditional loan products. They also tend to receive better rates on insurance products, cell phone bills, and even some utilities.  During times of crisis, middle-income Americans with good credit scores are able to access credit (via loans or credit cards) if they lack sufficient savings to cover their financial needs. However, low to moderate-income Americans and those with low credit scores not only face all kinds of challenges in their day-to-day lives, but they are essentially shut out from access to credit and traditional financing. Lack of access to necessary capital via financial products is the reason many people turn to high-interest payday loans, auto title loans, and subprime online lenders.

HFLA of Northeast Ohio began reporting credit for our borrowers in January of 2018. We are members of Credit Builder's Alliance (CBA) and submit our borrowers’ loan repayment history to them monthly to be submitted to the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). The goal of our credit reporting is to assist our borrowers in building credit, improving their credit history, or maintaining their existing credit profile. We have spoken with CBA to ensure that we can work with borrowers during times of financial hardship and still keep their loans in good standing with the credit bureaus by only reporting positive payment history and not reporting bad debt. Many of our borrowers have indicated that their HFLA loan appearing on their credit report has had a positive impact —typically raising their credit score by 20 to 40 points. As of December 2018, we also have the ability to run “soft credit checks” (a way to view a credit report without affecting the score) so that we can track the impact our reporting has on borrowers’ credit scores.

HFLA of NEO is pleased that we are helping to improve our borrowers’ access to capital, and their overall financial situations, with the addition of credit reporting to our interest free loan program. We look forward to sharing more about credit reporting at the IAJFL 2019 Annual Conference with a special presentation from CBA when we host all of you in beautiful Cleveland this September!

Borrower, Tiffany Lee, with HFLS board member, Ted Tapper, and HFLS volunteer, Steve Koffs (in background).

HFLS of Greater Philadelphia Federal Worker Emergency Relief Loan Program

by Marshal Granor, Tamar Granor & Cheryl Barish Erlick

The Hebrew Free Loan Society of Greater Philadelphia

 The Hebrew Free Loan Society of Greater Philadelphia (HFL) helped 400 furloughed or working-without-pay federal workers to survive the partial government shutdown that began on December 22, 2018 and lasted for 35 days. A donor called Marshal on Friday afternoon of week three of the shutdown. The donor (referred to as “he” for simplicity) was near tears. His exact words were, “Marshal, we have to do something to help these poor federal employees.” He offered $500,000 to make 400 $1,250.00 interest-free loans for unpaid federal workers with lower incomes. No guarantors; no payments until 90 days after the government shutdown ends. The borrower would sign a promissory note and receive the money. The donor wanted the program in place within a week. The program had to be non-sectarian, as a humanitarian reaction to an urgent need. He wanted to remain anonymous and hoped others would join and provide similar interest-free loans.
We normally give between 30 and 75 loans in a year. How could we give 400 in a few days? We realized we needed an “assembly line” process, where we could meet with borrowers one right after the other. We reached out to venues in downtown Philadelphia, near public transit. The National Constitution Center agreed to host us. Our bank opened a new account and printed checks in-house; they were delighted to be able to help these workers in a concrete way. Marshal’s secretary printed the date and check amount on the blanks so we wouldn’t have to fill them in by hand. We simplified our usual borrower application and set it up as a Google form, so all data would land in a single spreadsheet. We also simplified our usual promissory note. SignupGenius was used both for volunteer scheduling in two-hour blocks, and for borrowers to sign up for 10-minute timeslots, putting two to four borrowers per slot, based on how many volunteers we expected. We created a new page for our website with the details of the program and instructions on how to apply, including links to the Google Form and the SignupGenius page. The home page was updated with a link to the new program description page. We sent a press release to the media and contacted a union that represents large numbers of federal workers, as well as announcing the program on our Facebook page and Twitter feed. We shared the Facebook post to Facebook groups throughout the Philadelphia area, and it was reshared multiple times.
On the first scheduled day of loan-giving, we had very few applicants. We reached out to Tamar’s sister, who is a PR professional. She made a few phone calls that made all the difference. We were covered in the Philadelphia Inquirer, as well as on the local NPR affiliate, and TV news on two Philadelphia stations. The press release was reprinted in the Jewish Exponent, local papers, and on-line news services. As soon as the news stories hit, applications and appointments came in rapidly.
On site, we had a greeter to welcome our borrowers and assign numbers; two to four intake stations where volunteers reviewed the data already in the on-line application and checked the borrower’s supporting documents; and one to two stations where supporting documents were copied, the note was completed and copied, and the check written. Cheryl floated to train volunteers, trouble-shoot, and deal with the media. Everyone was instructed to thank our borrowers for the work they do for us every day.
After four days of meeting with borrowers, almost all the funds had been distributed and we still had more applicants. As the shutdown came to an end, we offered the remaining loans to applicants in the order in which they had applied. Within just over two weeks from the original phone call, HFL had given 399 loans to grateful public servants.

Read the Philadelphia Inquirer article here.



* Government Shutdown
* Conference Recap
* Vancouver, BC
* New Loan Capital in NYC
* Building Credit in Ohio
* Shutdown Relief Loans 


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2019 Conference in Cleveland:
Click the image below to enlarge and get reservation information.
New IAJFL Office
3443 N Central Ave.
Suite 707
Phoenix AZ 85012
contact: Chris Black
Parshat Mishpatim: What The Bible Says About Money Lending
How is charging interest like a snake bite?

Parshat Mishpatim video commissioned by the Hebrew Free Loan of San Francisco and narrated by Rori Picker Neiss

BENEFITS of IAJFL Membership

  • Professionals and lay leaders provide support to member agencies
  • Annual conference offers networking, idea-sharing, and learning opportunities
  • Conference calls provide ongoing education and peer support
  • Sharing of marketing materials, document templates and other best practices
  • Collaboration with other national and international organizations such as Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies (NJHSA), and Hillel International


Established in 2015 for sharing documents between IAJFL agencies, the IAJFL Dropbox account serves as a central repository for all types of written communication. We’ve formally invited close to 300 people affiliated with IAJFL member agencies to view and/or add material. We’re thrilled to see that several agencies have added their own documents to folders such as Marketing Materials, Loan Applications, Loan Policies, and Bylaws. Instead of drafting something from scratch, take a look at versions being used in other communities. Our annual City Reports spreadsheets have also been uploaded for easy reference.
The Dropbox account is intended to be dynamic; please let us know if you have suggestions for additional types of materials which might be helpful to upload.
If you haven’t already visited the site, please check it out. If you need an invitation or assistance logging on, please contact us at

Conference Calls

Cheryl Barish Erlick and Tim Grossman are the chairs of the Small Agencies Group (SAG).  The 2019 call schedule will be COMING SOON!

Everyone is invited to participate in the SAG conference calls.
Have something to share?

Please email Ginny Gendelman (Milwaukee) to share your newest agency video, a successful recent event
(with photos) or anything you think your fellow IAJFL member agencies would find interesting.  We may include your item in a future newsletter. 

Email Ginny at with 'Newsletter'
in the subject line.
Thank you!

IAJFL Newsletter Editor:
Ginny Gendelman, Executive Director, Milwaukee Jewish Free Loan Association
Copyright © 2019 International Association of Jewish Free Loans, All rights reserved.

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