Dec. 4, 2012 --
It was a special night in Surfside as people crowded into the Igal Fedida art gallery to help raise funds for the Hebrew Free Loan Association of South Florida. Founded by Andrew Weinberg in 1988, the HFLA provides confidential, interest free loans to the Jewish community of South Florida to help people with their financial needs and “give people a chance to stand with dignity on their own two feet.” According to Jewish tradition, lending money interest-free is the highest form of tzedakah (charity) and far greater than handouts. Gemachs, or Jewish free loan funds, were historically the first institutions set up by newcomers to the United States during the waves of immigration from Eastern Europe in the early 1900's. The HFLA is one of many such charities established in the US and worldwide that fulfill the two biblical Torah commandments of lending money to the poor and lending without interest.
It was one of these loans that Chaim Plewinski's Father, a Russian immigrant to Israel, acquired over 50 years ago. A tailor by profession, the HFLA in Israel gave him a loan to help him purchase a sewing machine. Years later they immigrated to Canada and then to Miami where the HFLA was again there to offer assistance, this time to Chaim, with a small business loan to purchase a hotel. The business flourished and prospered. Speaking this past week to the crowd at the HFLA fund raising event, he reflects, “It was that loan that started our path to financial independence”. Chaim is now retired and he and his wife Claire serve on the board of directors for HFLA.
Also speaking at Tuesday night's event was Rose Furmanski, who came to the United States in 1946 from Germany, widowed and with one small son. “Everyone was interested in helping us”, she said, but then added, “We are used to tragedies.”
Now she is giving back.
A generous donation was made to the HFLA by Mrs. Furmanski, “So that they can continue the wonderful work in helping the community”. An additional donation was made by her to the newly established HFLA Grandchildren's Fund to help grandparents and their grandchildren get involved in giving charity together.
In addition to the general loan fund and Grandchildren's fund, the HFLA also maintains eight other programs ranging from an Educational fund to an Urgent medical care fund for the elderly. Over the past twenty five years the HFLA has lended out over 1.2 million dollars in aid to help bridge the difficult times in peoples lives. It maintains a repayment rate of 98% and continues to play a vital role in the Jewish community of South Florida. To qualify for a loan, a borrower must be Jewish, a Florida resident and be able to provide two credit worthy co-signers for consideration. All loan requests are processed in a confidential manner by professional staff of the HFLA.
Concluding the night's event was featured speaker, Rosh Lowe, a reporter for Channel 7, whose Grandfather also benefited from the HFLA many years ago. Losing both parents at the age nine, Rosh's grandfather was raised in an orphanage. When he turned 18, he left with a $5 loan and an overcoat given to him by the HFLA of New York. “My grandfather always spoke about this generosity and kindness....when no one else cared.”
For further information on how to obtain a loan or how you can donate visit:
www. Hebrewloan.org or call 305-933-1187