The HEBREW FREE LOAN ASSN. was established in 1904 to provide interest-free loans to needy Jewish immigrants, following the Biblical injunction that Jews not charge interest to the needy. Cleveland merchants Chas. Ettinger and MORRIS BLACK each donated approximately $200 and Herman Stern another $100 to create the loan fund; the association was formally incorporated in 1904 as the Gmilus Chassodim Society (Hebrew Free Loan Association). Early loans were generally for $25-50, given for medical expenses, to purchase food and clothing, to provide temporary room and board, and in some cases to help establish small businesses. Records indicate that the repayment rate ran between 97-99%.
In 1909 the association provided approx. 700 loans averaging nearly $30 each. The function and purpose of the association changed from an immigrant aid society to a general service agency during the Depression. Following World War II, it provided small capital loans to returning veterans. In the 1980s, its loans covered emergency assistance, medical expenses, lump-sum tuition, and home improvement. The association was an early beneficiary of the Fed. of Jewish Charities. In 1982 the association became a charter member of the Assn. of Hebrew Free Loans, a national organization. In 1984 the association received the Isaiah Award for Human Relations from the Cleveland Chap. of the American Jewish Committee. It is a nonsectarian, nonprofit, self-supporting organization operating on dues from its members (totalling 950 in 1995) and on income from investments. In 2001, its loan fund was in excess of $600,000, managed by volunteers and a paid executive director. The association is located at 2245 Warrensville Ctr. Rd. in UNIV. HTS.