The Hebrew Free Loan Association of Vancouver (HFLA) continues to evolve to serve the Jewish community better. Last fall, HFLA introduced a new maximum $5,000 loan category that has become its most requested type of loan. The association’s latest innovation is a new student loan program.
Students are saddled with increasingly large debts after graduation because of the high cost of education. HFLA understands this dilemma and is happy to be able to give interest-free loans to Jews in British Columbia. Each and every payment made on an HFLA loan pays down the principal, getting rid of the debt far more quickly than any interest-bearing loan, no matter how low the interest rate. Borrow for education, pay no interest. Simple and helpful.
The program has a new scale for the repayment schedule, a maximum $3,000 yearly loan amount for four years, and requires proof of enrolment and two guarantors. The parameters of this new program have been guided by best practices from other successful student loan programs that have been running for many years in other cities.
The low repayment schedule gives students a chance to chip away slowly at their student debt throughout their post-secondary education without appreciably impacting their limited student budget. In the second year of borrowing, the payments level out at $100 per month and do not increase until six months after graduation, at which time, repayment is required at HFLA’s usual rate of $25 for every $1,000 borrowed.
The HFLA Student Loan program is perfect for an undergrad or graduate student who needs to top up a Canada Student Loan or a scholarship. HFLA seeks to ease the financial burden on students and their families while enabling students to reach their potential. All kinds of post-secondary education fall under the program and will be considered by HFLA’s board of directors as are all of its loans.
For more information on this or other interest-free loan types, visit hfla.ca or call 604-428-4282.
At 100 years old, the Hebrew Free Loan Association of Vancouver (HFLA) is a fairly spry organization, keeping current with the community’s changing needs. So, as the new year begins, it is introducing three new lending programs for trial in an effort to encourage more applicants to look to HFLA for the loan that may help them through financial hardships, finance dental work, launch their new business or fix their roof.
Emergency loan limits have doubled to a maximum of $1,500. These loans are for immediate and urgent needs and typically are processed within 48 hours of application. One qualified guarantor is needed to secure this loan.
Single-guarantor personal loans with a $5,000 maximum are being introduced, and applicants will require only one qualified guarantor.
Business, education and special purpose loans are being changed to make it easier to borrow up to $10,000. HFLA will now ask for only two qualified guarantors instead of three. Borrowers in this category use these loans for modern needs like in vitro fertilization, adoption or computer equipment for business startups.
In 1915, when Jews in the community first began making small loans, it was to buy a horse or a pushcart to open a used furniture shop or to buy supplies for a small store. These loans of $5-$25 were a lifeline for early immigrants to Vancouver to establish themselves and, in turn, to build our community. Today, we look back and see how much those first loans did to encourage financial independence and engender security for people who were unable to find money any other way. We can see in the less distant past, loans to a wave of immigrants from the former Soviet Union in the 1980s, who bought musical instruments and other vital equipment to make a living here.
There are many amazing stories of ways in which people have received assistance to get out of a bad situation or a jump-start into a new life with a loan from HFLA, and the association wants to ensure those stories continue to accumulate by reaching more people. This strategy began with HFLA’s centennial celebration in May.
The new loan programs are designed to make it easier to apply for interest-free loans quickly, with anonymity and dignity. HFLA meets every two weeks to discuss loan applications so the waiting time for a loan is brief.
For full information about all of HFLA’s loan programs, visit hfla.ca or send someone you feel will benefit from an interest-free loan to check it out (the revamped website includes simplified forms). To speak to the HFLA’s part-time administrator, Michelle Longo, call 604-428-2832.
Hebrew Free Loan Association president Michelle Dodek, second from the right, with, left to right, past association presidents Errol Lipschitz, Diane Friedman and Mannie Druker. (photo by Dan Poh)
One hundred years of anything in Vancouver is fairly unusual. On May 7 at the newly rebuilt Beth Israel, the Vancouver Hebrew Free Loan Association celebrated the remarkable milestone of 100 years since it was originally founded.
In January 1915, the year that the Vancouver Millionaires won the Stanley Cup, a group of Jews gathered for the first meeting of the Vancouver HFLA. Designed to give interest-free loans to Jewish people starting out in the community, the association played an integral part in helping establish many early Jewish businesses and getting people settled here.
The HFLA Centennial Celebration reflected its grassroots beginning with a relaxed, different kind of evening. Casual picnic-chic décor and a picnic-style menu went with the fact that the event was held on Lag b’Omer. Greeting the guests were actors and musicians from the volunteer troupe Kol Halev. They were dressed in period costume and introduced themselves in character, sharing “their personal stories” as the founders of Jewish lending in Vancouver.
These actors provided an interactive beginning to an evening that was designed to raise the profile of HFLA. Through a multi-media approach, the event managed to educate those in attendance about the valuable role that interest-free loans play in Vancouver’s Jewish community.
The program began with a short d’var Torah by Beth Israel Rabbi Jonathan Infeld, touching on the relationship between Lag b’Omer and interest-free lending. HFLA president Michelle Dodek followed the rabbi’s comments by explaining the three objectives of the event: to raise awareness in the community by sharing what HFLA does, to honor the donors and board members who have made the work of the organization possible, and to look to the future. She recognized the multi-generational links of those in attendance, including the remarkable fourth-generation connection of the three Krell sisters (Shoshana Lewis, Simone Kallner and Michaela Singerman), whose great-grandfather, David Davis, was a contributor to the original Vancouver HFLA kitty in 1915 and served as a trustee in 1931. Their grandfather, Charles Davis, was one of the founders of the re-creation of the organization in 1979.
Dodek’s speech was followed by a short video featuring two former borrowers, Mihael Mamychshvili, a prominent shiatsu therapist and Barbi Braude, a graphic designer. Joe Segal and Shirley Barnett shared their historical perspectives and goals for the organization.
Guests then heard from four borrowers whose lives were changed by the loans they received from HFLA. Successful entrepreneurs Zach Berman and Ryan Slater began their business, the Juice Truck, with help from HFLA. Val Lev Dolgin used an education loan to earn her master’s in counseling psychology; she now helps children who have survived physical and sexual abuse. George Medvedev, a neurologist, shared how he and his wife, a hematologist, used a loan to help them when they first arrived in Canada from the USSR almost 20 years ago.
Another story was read by a volunteer to respect the anonymity of the borrower because of the sensitive nature of her situation, while the story of former borrower Maxim Fomitchev was shared by his friend, Tobi Lennet. Briefly, Fomitchev, a deaf mime, while touring with his troupe of mime artists from the USSR in 1991, defected, accompanied by his performing partner. The two found themselves volunteering for Jewish Family Service Agency and, within two years, Fomitchev borrowed money for a car to get from one mime gig to another. He has since achieved one of the pinnacles of success for a mime – he is the head clown in Cirque de Soleil’s Las Vegas show, Zarkana.
The evening’s program ended with the educational element of the night, the stories of four “typical” borrowers: parents of a child needing counseling, a retired woman needing dental work, someone between jobs in a stressful situation and parents borrowing to finance a modest bar mitzvah. All of these stories served to drive home the significance of HFLA.
The HFLA Centennial Celebration was a chance to celebrate a significant milestone in the community, raise awareness of an organization that is “the best kept secret” in Vancouver while recognizing donors and volunteers who make it all happen. The message for the future is that HFLA is looking for borrowers. For more information on how to apply for a loan, to watch the HFLA video or to find out about how the organization works, check out its newly revamped website at hfla.ca.