The mandate for JFL’s work can be traced to biblical times and found in Parshat Mishpatim, Exodus 22:24:
“Thou shalt not exact interest from the needy among you.”
In the modern period, nearly every Jewish community in Europe established a benevolent society dedicated to lending money to the poor without interest. In early America, free loans were initially the responsibility of the synagogue. However by late 1800’s larger cities with significant immigrant populations established independent free loan societies to meet the needs of their growing Jewish communities. Today, more than 45 free loan agencies – including Phoenix – are members of the International Association of Jewish Free Loans.
Jewish Free Loan was established in Phoenix in the late-1940s when Sam Block and Joseph Rabenowitz, along with a core group of Jewish philanthropists, began to meet to provide small, interest-free loans to Jewish individuals in need. In 1950, Jewish Free Loan was incorporated into a formally-recognized nonprofit organization dedicated to growing the work started by this visionary group.
Since that time, the organization has grown significantly. We now have five staff members, a diverse board of directors, dozens of named loan funds, and a rapidly-growing financial literacy educational program. What originally started as a grassroots movement by a small group of committed volunteers, distributing their own money as tzedakah, has grown into an internationally-respected agency supported by the contributions entrusted to us by generous donors each year.
As a nonprofit organization, the ability for Jewish Free Loan to fulfill our biblical directive is dependent upon the generosity of donors who support the organization’s efforts and enable JFL to provide interest-free loans for life’s ups & downs…and everything in between.