This Shabbat (Feb. 2), in parashat Mishpatim, the Torah commands, “If you lend money to my people … do not act toward them as a creditor; you may not charge them interest.” This law, along with Maimonides’ teaching that the greatest level of tzedakah is to support a fellow Jew by endowing them with a gift or loan to strengthen their hand, are the guiding principles of the Hebrew Free Loan Association of Vancouver (HFLA).
HFLA provides interest-free loans to help Jewish individuals from British Columbia overcome financial challenges and build better lives. HFLA fosters economic stability and opportunity among low- and moderate-income members of the community by providing access to affordable credit in the form of a no-interest loan.
Over the years, the types of loans the organization has given out have evolved greatly. In the 1980s and ’90s, with a wave of immigrants from the former Soviet Union, the majority of HFLA’s loans went to helping immigrants finance vocational training. While HFLA still helps many new immigrants, its focus now also includes helping people with the rising costs of living in the Lower Mainland.
“With the bulk of people’s income going towards housing costs, many people have very little left over when unexpected bills arise,” said Joanna Wasel, executive director of HFLA. “We are able to be there for people during times of financial stress. A loan from us can help cover things like emergency dental work, physical therapy and short-term home care.”
HFLA is also here to help members of the community when they need support to start a Jewish family through fertility treatments or adoption, host a bar or bat mitzvah, finance university or start a new business. The goal of these loan programs is to help community members build better lives and avoid falling into high-interest debt.
HFLA recently unveiled a new webpage, hfla.ca. The new site is clear, concise and includes a step-by-step guide to applying for an HFLA loan. Potential borrowers can complete and submit an application online.
“We really want to make the process as easy as possible for our borrowers. Every step has been designed with great care to ensure that people’s dignity and confidentiality are respected and protected,” said Wasel.
In the past 40 years, HFLA Vancouver has made more than 1,900 loans. There is no other organization like it in the community and those in need, or with friends in need, are encouraged to seek more information about HFLA’s services by visiting its website or calling 604-428-2832.