Pictured above: Ellen Friedman Sacks, left, and Tina Sheinbein.
The Jewish Free Loan officially began in Phoenix in April of 1950. The people who were moving “out West” after the war needed financial assistance to start businesses, build homes and meet unexpected expenses. A small group of like-minded men in the Jewish community stepped up to help.
Little has changed in the mission of Jewish Free Loan today; though the amounts of the loans have gotten larger.
The only thing JFL cannot provide a loan for is the down payment for a home, and that is not mandated by them, but by financial institutions.
“People have heard of JFL, but it hasn’t quite clicked the wide variety of ways we are able to assist people with our interest-free loans,” says Ellen Friedman Sacks, associate executive director. “There may be the misperception that we’re only here for emergency needs and not for education, travel to Israel, medical expenses – and the list goes on and on.”
Their two largest loan categories right now are emergency loans for needs such as avoiding eviction, keeping the utilities on and paying for emergency medical expenses; and education loans for college, university or trade school.
If everything goes smoothly during the paperwork process, JFL can provide a check to someone in as little as 10 days to two weeks. If it’s an emergency situation, the funds are available within one to two days.
“We have been known to provide a check that day if someone was in danger of being evicted,” says Tina Sheinbein, executive director.
JFL continues to grow based on the generosity of the community. “Sometimes we will get grants from certain community organizations, but typically 98% of our money in any given year comes from private individuals in the community,” Tina says.
In 2017, JFL distributed more than $635,000 in interest-free loans. It was their largest year to date. “Our fiscal year started June 1, and we are already past last year’s loans made as of Sept 30,” comments Tina.
Many people choose to support JFL because they once used their services, perhaps not in Phoenix, but in another location. There are JFL offices in the United States, Canada, Israel and Australia. Tina and Ellen work closely with the Hebrew Free Loan Association of Tucson as it does not offer the student loan program yet, so they refer students to JFL.
Tina shared a fun story about a student loan application. “There was a student recently who applied for funding for college and on the application where it asks, ‘How did you find out about us?’ the reply was, ‘My parents adopted me with a Jewish free loan.’ ”
She said that there are probably 13 or 15 Jewish little boys and girls running around the community because of their adoption and in-vitro loans. “We feel a responsibility towards them – they are our babies,” says Tina. “And part of the JFL family,” adds Ellen. “We assist people in realizing their dreams as well as meeting their needs.”
JFL in Phoenix is growing in another way. This past spring, the Phoenix office took over the administrative duties of the International Association of Jewish Free Loans, previously located in Los Angeles.
“We run the fiscal operations, we do the membership billing and we keep the minutes when the executive committee meets,” says Tina. Tina is the immediate past president, and Ellen is a vice president on the executive team.
“We are working on joint marketing and outreach tools that can be utilized in different communities, that not only talk about the local impact of the loans but also the international impact,” says Ellen. “If you look at the comprehensive picture of what free loan agencies are doing around the globe – it’s significant.”
To find out more about Jewish Free Loan, visit jewishfreeloan.org.