The Hebrew Free Loan Association is a Jewish financial institution offering no-interest loans to anyone in need, Jewish or non-Jewish. According to organizational histories, the Association began when a group of people met at the home of Simon Shupinsky in the mid-1880s to discuss options for distributing an existing charity fund. After learning about a local Jewish widow and mother who could not afford Passover supplies but was refusing charity, Shupinsky proposed the idea of creating a loan program with easy repayments, building on a concept of Jewish charity stretching back to ancient times.
The group chartered the Gemiluth Chasodim Society of Pittsburgh in January 1887 and became colloquially known as the Hebrew Free Loan Society.Gemalith Haevdim (sic) Society charter, Allegheny County Charter Book, Vol. 11, p. 211-213. The organization formally changed its name to the Hebrew Free Loan Association of Pittsburgh in 1926. Originally independent, it became one of the founding beneficiaries of the new Federation of the Jewish Philanthropies of Pittsburgh in 1912. Throughout the early decades of its existence, the Hebrew Free Loan Association had numerous meeting locations, including the Rodef Shalom Congregation synagogue, the Washington Trust Company Building, the Beth Hamedrash Hagodol Congregation synagogue, the Beth Jacob Congregation synagogue, the Irene Kaufmann Settlement House on Centre Avenue, and the United Hebrew Relief Association offices at 15 Fernando Street. It later relocated to the eastern neighborhoods of the city, spending many years at 4307 Murray Avenue in Greenfield before relocating to offices at Rodef Shalom Congregation in early 2022.
Always needed within the community, the Hebrew Free Loan Association has been especially active during periods of economic upheaval, such as the wave of Eastern European immigration at the turn of the 20th century, the 1918 influenza pandemic, the Great Depression, the St. Patrick’s Day Flood of 1936, the arrival of refugees escaping Nazi persecution, the resettlement of Soviet Jews in the Pittsburgh area from the 1970s into the 1990s, and the coronavirus pandemic starting in 2020. By 1950, the Association estimated it had made approximately 20,000 loans totaling more than $2 million.Stern, Jane Levine. “Joseph Goldstein,” American Jewish Outlook, Jan. 20, 1950, p 8 (online).
Starting in 2018, the Hebrew Free Loan Association expanded its coverage area beyond Allegheny County to include applicants from Westmoreland, Washington, Beaver, Butler and Armstrong counties.“Hebrew Free Loan president passes the baton,” Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle, May 10, 2018 (online—Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle). In September 2018, the Association signed a memorandum of understanding with the Jewish Assistance Fund, JFCS Pittsburgh, the Squirrel Hill Food Pantry, Jewish Scholarship Services, and the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh to create JFunds, a system for streamlining the process of requesting and receiving aid.Reinherz, Adam. “JFunds launches with hopes of helping community,” Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle, Sept. 13, 2018 (online—Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle).
Presidents of the Hebrew Free Loan Association include Simon Shupinsky (-1917), Morris Jackson (1918-1925), Louis Shoop (1926-1929), Emil Steinbach (1930-), Emanuel Spector, Morris Balter (1942-1945), Joseph Goldstein, Israel Oseroff, Sidney Stark, Edward S. Sheinberg, Sam Verman (1970-1971), Irwin M. Ringold (1971-1973), J. Karl Stark (1973-1975), Harry Menzer (1975-1977), Herbert G. Sheinberg (1977-1979), Elliott B. Kramer (1979-1981), Sheldon L. Keyser (1981-1983), Paul A. Love (1983-1986), Alan S. Tombosky (1986-1988), Jules Feldman (1988-1990), Martin W. Sapper (1990-1992), Irving W. Levine (1992-1994), Patricia Love Anouchi (1994-1996), Leonard D. Silk (1996-1998), Stewart I. Bleckman (1998-2000), Brian Kruman (2000-2002), Howard Grossinger (2002-2004), Michael N. Sobel (2004-2006), Sam Edelman (2006-2008), S. Howard Kline (2008-2010), Michael I. Danovitz (2010-2012), Paul Reznick (2012-2014), Alexander Kiderman (2014-2016), James S. Sheinberg (2016-2018), Shelly Daniels (2018-2020), and Nancy Israel (2020-present).
|↑1||Gemalith Haevdim (sic) Society charter, Allegheny County Charter Book, Vol. 11, p. 211-213.|
|↑2||Stern, Jane Levine. “Joseph Goldstein,” American Jewish Outlook, Jan. 20, 1950, p 8 (online).|
|↑3||“Hebrew Free Loan president passes the baton,” Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle, May 10, 2018 (online—Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle).|
|↑4||Reinherz, Adam. “JFunds launches with hopes of helping community,” Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle, Sept. 13, 2018 (online—Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle).|