New ‘Mitzvah’ loan provides immediate assistance to Jews in need
By Daniel Koren--On July 12th, 1924, twelve devoted members of Toronto’s Jewish community established the Toronto G’milath Chasodim Association, a free loan agency that would help local Jewish residents in dire need of temporary financial assistance. As the community continued to flourish, the agency expanded to support any applicant deserving of relief that could benefit from this unique, interest-free micro-loan.
Today, through its mandate of “helping people to help themselves,” the not-for-profit association now known as Jewish Free Loan Toronto (JFLT) continues to support our community by offering three different kinds of loans: personal, education, and small business start-up.
Now, for the first time in 88 years, JFLT, whose operating costs are funded through UJA Federation of Greater Toronto and United Way, is offering a new kind of loan, one whose name is coincidentally synonymous with the organization itself.
The Mitzvah loan, unlike other JFLT loan categories, is available without the consent of a guarantor, providing applicants with immediate emergency assistance and a cheque for up to $720 within two days of first contact. It is JFLT’s way of reaching out even further to our community. Whether your car broke down, or you have unforeseen medical/dental expenses, or there is simply a family emergency where a little extra money can be of monumental relief, the Mitzvah loan offers Jewish Toronto’s working class a hand-up, not a handout.
“This is our way of continuing the traditions handed down to us, and finding new and useful ways to better serve our community,” said the organization’s Executive Director, Michael Freedman. “It’s these kinds of new initiatives that will make more people aware that our organization exists and that we are here to help in any way we can.”
As if the Mitzvah loan wasn’t enough, JFLT offers loans to university and college students up to $7500, personal loans up to $5000, and start-up business loans up to $15,000. Each loan is interest-free, and is repaid on a pre-determined, monthly basis. “It’s a cycle,” said Freedman.
“When we finish helping somebody, the money goes back into the pot and helps the next person, and so on. I guess you could say we’re the original recyclers.”
In the last few years, 92% (on average) of those who applied were successful in receiving loans from Jewish Free Loan Toronto, located in the Lipa Green Centre for Jewish Community Services on Sherman Campus. Loans are available to Jewish residents of the GTA who are Canadian citizens or permanent residents of Canada. According to Freedman, the agency will be coming out with even more types of loans this year to appeal to a broader demographic within Jewish Toronto.
When asked to relay further details, he smiled and replied, “We’ll keep that for the next article.”