Hebrew Ladies Free Loan Society

  • By Lee Micklin
  • Posted 3/17/1999
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 974
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In 1909, women from Bikur Cholim synagogue organized a whist and sewing club and established dues of 25 cents. When the treasury had accumulated $64, the women approached the rabbi of Bikur Cholim with the idea of making a purchase for the synagogue. The rabbi declined the club's "gambling" money. The Club's president, Jennie Friedman, suggested that the money be used to give free loans to needy Jews, allowing them to repay the loans with dignity.

A Social Club Becomes a Loan Society

In 1913, the Hebrew Ladies Free Loan Society adopted its name, rules, and procedures, and in 1916, the society incorporated. Loan ceilings were raised from $25 to $50 a month. The society did not charge interest on loans, but required two endorsers. Over the years, the society often raised the ceiling on the amount of loans.

Changing Times

The pattern of lending changed with the changing needs of borrowers. Throughout the time of extensive Jewish immigration as well as during the Great Depression of the 1930s, the society lent money for food and clothing. Later, it lent money to buy refrigerators and plumber's tools, and to have dental work done.

In 1955, the society established a student fund. In 1957, it began granting loans to Jewish organizations. In 1964 the Hebrew Ladies Free Loan Society established a fund to grant interest-free loans in Israel. Over the years, borrowers have become lenders and endorsers. Today the Hebrew Ladies Free Loan Society is administered by the Jewish Family Service.


Grace Rubin, "History of the Hebrew Ladies Free Loan Society," typescript, October 25, 1965, Acc. No. 2565-8, Box 6, Folder 3, Special Collections, Archives and University Manuscripts, University of Washington Libraries; Washington State Jewish Historical Society, The Jewish Experience in Washington State: A Chronology 1853-1995 (Washington State Jewish Historical Society, 1998)

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