For more than a century, the Jewish Free Loan Association of Los Angeles has lent a hand to people in need, offering interest-free loans on a non-sectarian basis to individuals and families whose needs are urgent and who may not qualify through traditional financial channels. A financial first responder serving Los Angeles and Ventura counties, JFLA funded $113,000 in interest-free loans to individuals and families who lost their homes and belongings in the Hill and Woolsey fires.

“Our objective is to help people,” says JFLAExecutive Director Rachel Grose, noting the agency services several thousand loans at any one time and currently has over $12 million out in loans for the communities of Los Angeles and Ventura Counties.

As the only interest-free lending agency in the greater LA County, JFLA serves an average of 1,000 clients annually, providing loans for a variety of needs—housing and rental issues, home health care, Alzheimer’s and dementia care, fall prevention, post-secondary education, medical/dental expenses, women fleeing domestic violence, children with special needs, summer camp, Israel experience, life cycle events and small business assistance.

By offering interest-free loans rather than charity, JFLA promotes self-sufficiency with the goal of helping people lead more rewarding and responsible lives, affirming the ancient biblical mandate, interest-free lending, by enacting it.

“We are really trying to work with all kinds of people facing adversity,” says Grose, adding that during her 17-plus years at JFLA, she has seen the positive ripple effect sparked by these loans.

“It’s not just the person who takes the loan that is helped—it’s impacting the entire family; many are living in multi-generational families,” she notes.

Long History

JFLA began helping people in need in 1904, when a small group of businessmen in Los Angeles established an organization to grant loans without interest or other charges to help individuals buy a sewing machine or a pushcart for fruits and vegetables, for example. An original member of Community Chest, precursor to the United Way, the Jewish Free Loan Association provided community assistance throughout the 20th century. In 1929, JFLA moved into the Federation of Jewish Welfare building and has since remained a beneficiary agency of The Jewish Federation.

JFLA continued helping thousands of families during World War II get a fresh start in the U.S., assisted businesses rebuild after the Watts riots in 1965, and created the first of its many student loan funds in the late 1980s. Following the 1994 Northridge earthquake, JFLA granted cash loans to those forced to vacate their homes and those without access to their bank accounts.

Unique Model

Jewish Free Loan’s unique funding program enjoys a 99% repayment rate and offers borrowers a fast and easy application process.

“Our objective is always to make the loan,” says Grose. “The process is really simple; it begins with a pre-loan application on our website and then we set up an in-person or Skype appointment.” Borrowers are required to have a guarantor living in state who has a credit score of at least 680 to qualify for an interest-free loan.

“We’re a social services agency; we’re not a bank,” says Grose. “Everyone who walks in here is treated with dignity and respect.”

During the interview, client’s needs are substantiated and their monthly budget is reviewed to determine what they can afford to repay, notes Grose.

“The objective is to have it repaid in two to three years,” says Grose, noting how often just a few hundred dollars can really help someone in need.

Individual loans range from a $200 to $10,000; small business loans are up to $75,000 and student loans up to $10,000, renewable annually. In addition to generous donors, foundation grants and fundraising events, funds are generated as people repay their loans.

“The dollars are recycled back into the program; when someone takes out a loan and pays it back, the money keeps recycling,” says Grose.

Future Funding

JFLA’s upcoming fundraising event on Feb. 8 will raise funds to help those facing homelessness.

“The housing loans that we are able to make are pivotal loans—eviction prevention, security deposits, including for Section 8 housing, first and last month’s rent, senior housing,” says Grose. “In a housing crisis, if you can keep someone in housing, even if it’s temporary, that prevents homelessness,” she adds.

The college student homelessness program started in January 2019 aims to help students find housing, says Grose, noting tens of thousands of college students are homeless, sleeping in their cars or temporary shelters.

Ways to Give

Donors can support JFLA’s mission in a variety of ways, including a One-time Gift, Automatic Monthly Gifts, IRA Charitable Rollover/Stock, Bonds & Securities, Matching Gifts, Named Loan Fund, Planned Giving and Legacy, Crowdsourcing and Bar/Bat Mitzvah Programs.

For more information about the Jewish Free Loan Association or to donate, visit JFLA.org.