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The Hebrew Free Loan Association of Houston provides zero-interest, no-free loans in the tradition of Gemilut Hesed, generally translated as an "act of loving-kindness," and usually refers to a special type of mitzvah that is performed with no expectation of any reward.
According to the great 12th Century Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon (Maimonides), there are eight degrees of charity, each one higher than the other. The highest degree is to aid a Jew in want by offering him a gift or a loan, by entering into partnership with him, or by providing work for him, so that he may become self-supporting, without having to ask people for anything.
The Torah uses the word "lend" not "gift". Why a loan? A loan allows the recipient to maintain his dignity. A loan has psychological benefits over a hand out.
What is the purpose of "in that which he lacks"? To emphasize that, within reason, a person of means who encounters poverty should receive tzedakah in an amount to assist him in achieving the lifestyle to which he was accustomed.
The mision of the Hebrew Free Loan Association of Houston is to provide a source of funds to Jews of Houston in a confidential interest free loan.
The Association follows loan criteria established in its Articles of Association and resolutions adopted by the membership of the Association. Currently, these criteria are as follows:
- Loans are made only to persons of the Jewish faith.
- All loans must be evidenced by promissory notes.
- If any loan requires guarantors, at least one guarantor shall be of the Jewish faith and all guarantors must be residents of Harris County<. Members of the Loan and Collection Committee cannot be guarantors.
- All guarantors must be at least 21 years of age.
- Loans in an amount less than $1,000 may be made without guarantors with the approval of two members of the Loan Committee.
- Any loans of $1,000 or more shall require at least one guarantor for each $500 of the loan amount.
- No application for a loan in excess of $250 shall be considered where the borrower has not resided in Harri County for at least 90 days.
- If a borrower has not repaid a previous loan, no new loans will be made to that borrower.
Examples of types of loans that we make are as follows:
These loans assist individuals and families with money for housing needs, food, clothing, basic transportation and other emergencies. Most general need loans are limited to $2,000.00. Loans are repaid in installments over a period of time which typically does not exceed two years.
Commercial Loans/Business Startup
The Association is capable of making interest free existing business or business startup or commercial loans. These loans must be at least $3,000 and not more than $10,000. The Business/Commerical Loan Application is required, and the Loan Committee will usually require some type of collateral.
Graduate Student Loan Program
The Association has established a Graduate Student Loan Program that is administered by the Jewish Family Service of Houston. For more information about these loans, contact Toby Newman at Jewish Family Service of Houston (713) 667-9336.
Hurricane IKE Assistance Loans
The Association has partnered with the Jewish Family Service of Houston and the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston to make loans to victims of Hurricane IKE in situations where the borrower may not otherwise meet loan criteria of the Association. Intake for these loans is handled by the Jewish Family Service of Houston. For more information about these loans, contact the Jewish Family Service of Houston (713) 667-9336.
Day School Loans
Loans may be made to students of day schools for previous years tuition in special circumstances to be determined by the Loan Committee, subject to a total cap on all such loans of $10,000 per year. In addition, families finding themselves in need of additional assistance due to cash flow problems caused by day school tuitions should feel free to contact the Association for assistance.
Special Needs/Exceptional Aid Fund
Where a borrower cannot meet the other loan criteria of the Association, the Association can, in exceptional cases, make loans greater than $1,000, without requiring any guaranty. In these situations, the borrower must verify that he or she has tried seeking funds from all other available Jewish, general and governmental sources.
Loans for healthcare/medical needs are available. This may arise from a lack of insurance coverage or limited coverage, high deductibles, reimbursement delays, or Medicare gaps. Loans are also available for short term home care.
Traveler’s Aid Loans
In conjunction with the International Association of Hebrew Free Loans, the Association is able to advance funds to those non-Houston residents who find themselves in need of a loan while visiting or traveling through the Houston area. These loans are advanced by the Association, and transferred to the Free Loan Association where the borrower is a full time resident.
Home Buyer Loans
Loans are available for closing costs for first time home purchasers.
Loans may be available for the adoption process and pre-adoption medical processes for parents with the intent to raise Jewish children.
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