Questions about borrowing

What kind of loans do you give?

Our traditional (personal) loans, including adoption and fertility are offered only to members of the Philadelphia-area Jewish community.
Business loans are open to anyone living in our service area.

That depends. For most of our loans, you must be Jewish or have a strong connection to the Jewish community, such as working for a Jewish communal agency. For the Be a Family Fertility Fund, you must be Jewish. For our business loans, you do not have to be Jewish or connected in any way to the Jewish community.

You must live in one of nine counties in the Philadelphia area: Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester, Delaware or Montgomery County in Pennsylvania, or Burlington, Camden, Gloucester or Mercer County in New Jersey.

Check the website of the International Association of Jewish Free Loans to see if you live in the service area of another Hebrew Free Loan agency. Be aware that each listed agency is independent, and has its own lending criteria.

For most of our loans, you do not have to have good credit. For our business loans, we do check your credit, and if it is not good, will ask you to explain.

No, you can have only one loan from us at any time.

Yes, both members of a married couple can get loans from us at the same time, but each will require the appropriate number of co-signers, who cannot be the same people. However, a couple can only get one loan from the Be a Family Fertility Fund at a time.

Most of our loans go up to $7,500. Loans from the Be a Family Fertility Fund, adoptions and business loans go up to $15,000.

Fill out the form on our Request an Application page to start the process. Once you submit that form, a representative from HFL will get in touch with you to explain the next steps.

Those responses are handled by volunteer board members. Generally, someone will reply within a couple of days. Be aware, though, that as a Jewish organization, we do not conduct business on Shabbat (Friday night and Saturday) or Jewish holidays.

It varies. For most of loans, once we have all the paperwork, including that of your co-signers, it can take just a few days to approve. Once that’s done, we send the co-signers the guarantee forms, in which they promise to repay the loan if you fail to do so. We must have the signed and notarized guarantees before we can fund your loan.

For business loans, once we have all the paperwork, including that of your co-signers, we’ll assign two members of our Business Loan committee, who will meet with you to discuss your business plan. After that meeting, it generally takes a few days to approve the loan.

Personal loan award sessions occur several times a month. The administrator will work with you to find an available time. Business Loan borrowers first meet with the Business Loan Committee before a loan award date is set.

For the borrower, it costs nothing except the time to fill out the application. There are no fees for our loans. However, your co-signers will have to have their guarantee forms notarized, which generally costs a few dollars.

That depends on the amount and type of your loan. For most of our loans, the repayment is never more than $200 per month. For loans under $5000, it’s less. For post-secondary education loans, we offer a reduced payment plan; you may choose to pay $50 per month as long as the student is in school; we require proof of enrollment regularly. For the Be a Family Fertility Fund and adoption loans, most often the monthly payment is a little more than $300 per month. For business loans, most often the monthly payment is a little more than $400 per month.

Again, that depends on the amount and type of your loan. For most loans, repayment generally starts the second month after you get the loan. (For example, if you get a loan on June 15, your first payment will likely be due August 1.) Most loans of $5,000 or less are repaid over about two years. Most loans above $5,000 are repaid over about three years. With the reduced payment plan for loans for post-secondary education, the repayment period is determined by how long the student remains in school; we will ask you to provide proof of enrollment regularly. Larger loans from the Be a Family Fertility Fund and adoption loans may be repaid over four years. For business loans, both the start date and the length of the loan will be determined by the Business Loan Committee, but it will always be three years or less.

Yes, you can pay your loan back as fast as you want. There are no fees or penalties for paying more quickly.

If you fail to make a payment without alerting us in advance, we will contact you and we’ll let your co-signers know as well. We much prefer that you contact us if you have a problem that prevents you from making a payment on time.

If you stop paying entirely, we expect your co-signers to repay the loan in full. While it happens only rarely, if they also fail to pay, we will take legal action to be repaid. We work hard to avoid that because doing so increases your debt by the costs of the legal action.

Your payments are returned to our revolving loan fund so we can lend the money to someone else.

No, you may only have one loan from us at a time. However, you can accelerate your payments in order to pay off your loan early.

We lend for educational purposes, including tuition and other expenses, but we do not offer what are traditionally called “student loans,” in which payment (and sometimes, interest) is deferred until the student leaves school. We offer a reduced payment plan for education loans for post-secondary students.

Our education loans, like most of our loans, can be up to $7,500.

No, repayment for education loans generally begins the second month after you get the loan. (For example, if you get a loan on June 15, your first payment will likely be due August 1.) However, for post-secondary students (those in college, trade school, or graduate or professional school), as long as you (or the student you borrowed for) are in school (and regularly provide us with proof of enrollment), you may pay as little as $50 per month.

You can have only one loan from us at a time. So you can apply for and get a new loan each year only if you pay off your previous loan first.

We offer this plan for any loan related to post-secondary education, that is, for college, trade school, graduate school or professional school, as long as the loan is intended to help pay for education expenses.

Yes, a parent who borrows for a child’s post-secondary education expenses is eligible for our reduced payment plan.

The reduced payment plan allows those who borrow for post-secondary education expenses to pay $50 per month as long as the student remains in school. To use the reduced payment plan, you must request it in writing and you must provide proof of enrollment (such as a tuition bill or a class schedule) for each enrollment period.

Yes. As with all our loans, you are always welcome to pay more than the required amount.

We don’t know. That depends on the amount of the loan, how long you (or the student you borrowed for) remain in school, and how much you pay along the way. (We require you to pay at least $50 per month.)

Once you (or the student you borrowed for) leaves school, you have the same payments you’d have had for any other traditional loan until the loan is repaid. Depending on the loan amount, most often, that’s either $100 or $200 per month.

We require co-signers to ensure that we are repaid. The money we lend has been entrusted to us to help people on an ongoing basis; having co-signers helps us to be better stewards of that money.

That depends on the type and amount of the loan. Most of our loans require co-signers as follows:

  • Up to $2,500: one co-signer;
  • $2,501-$5,000: two co-signers;
  • $5,001-$7,500: three co-signers.

The Be a Family Fertility Fund and adoption loans requires three co-signers. All business loans require two co-signers.

Any adult, other than your spouse, who lives in Pennsylvania or New Jersey and who is not currently a borrower or co-signer for one of our loans may co-sign your loan. However, only one member of a married couple can co-sign the same loan. In limited cases, we may allow someone who is currently a co-signer for one of our loans to co-sign your loan as well.
For those applying for a traditional loan, are not Jewish and work for a Jewish communal agency, at least one of your co-signers must be Jewish.
For any loan requiring two or more co-signers, one of your co-signers may live outside Pennsylvania or New Jersey but must reside in the United States.

No, your spouse cannot co-sign your loan.

One co-signer must come with you to meet with our representatives when we complete your loan. If you have multiple co-signers, any one of them can come.

Co-signing should have no effect on your credit either positive or negative. We only report to the credit agencies if both the borrower and co-signers fail to pay and we have to get a legal judgment. However, we do draw a credit report on each co-signer and that may have a small impact on your credit score; see the next question.

It might. That depends on the credit agencies. You can read more about that here. If you prefer, you can use one of the free credit reporting sites to get your own credit report and provide it to us.

We charge no fees to borrowers or co-signers. However, each co-signer must sign a guarantee and have it notarized. A notary may charge you a small fee.

If all goes well, you won’t have to repay anything. However, if your borrower fails to pay us, we will contact all the co-signers to ask for repayment. The guaranty form you sign indicates that you are responsible for the entire amount of the loan. Of course, we will never collect more than the loan amount (plus any legal and court costs we are forced to incur in order to collect), whether from the borrower, a single co-signer or multiple co-signers.

A Guarantee is a co-signer’s legal promise to repay the loan if the borrower does not repay in full. Having the guarantee notarized protects both Hebrew Free Loan and the co-signer by officially certifying the identity of the co-signer.

Yes, we will let you know if your borrower stops paying. If the borrower continues to fail to pay, we’ll ask you to start paying.

No. You cannot co-sign while you are a borrower.Once your loan is repaid, you may be able to co-sign for someone else’s loan.

You can be either a borrower or a co-signer for a single loan at any time. Under some circumstances, we will consider allowing you to guarantee a second loan if repayment of the first loan is up-to-date.

Yes, but not as long as any loan you co-signed for still has an unpaid balance. Once every loan for which you are a co-signer is repaid, you can apply for a loan yourself.

Some of the money we receive is used to run the organization; the rest is added to our revolving loan fund.

We have always operated frugally. Until recently, our annual administrative costs were typically about $5,000 per year. Since we hired a part-time Executive Director in 2013 and a part-time bookkeeper in 2017, our expenses now include those salaries, as well.

Yes, we are a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, and your donation is deductible as permitted by law.

Yes, you can donate on our website by clicking the Donate button at the top of every page of our site.

Yes, we’ll be happy to send such a letter. Be sure to provide the name, address and occasion for the contribution. We will not share the amount you donated in their name.

Yes, we’ll send such a letter. Be sure to provide the name and address of those to be informed of the contribution. We will not share the amount you donated in the deceased’s memory.

Yes, we’ll be happy to send such a letter. Be sure to provide the name, address and occasion for the contribution. We will not share the amount you donated in their name.

Currently, we do not publicly recognize our donors. If we start to do so in future, we will give donors the chance to remain anonymous.

To make such a gift, please contact our Executive Director by email or phone: 215-820-7703.

It depends on the item. To offer such a gift, please contact our Executive Director by email or phone: 215-820-7703.

At this time, we don’t have the ability to accept donations of used cars.

No, we are not a constituent of Jewish Federation or United Way.

Yes, if it fits our mission. Please contact our Executive Director by email or phone: 215-820-7703 to discuss it.

We’re certainly open to that idea. Any interested school should contact our Executive Director by email or phone: 215-820-7703.

Absolutely. Contact our Executive Director by email or phone: 215-820-7703.

List us among your beneficiaries as Hebrew Free Loan Society of Greater Philadelphia; your attorney will know how to do this.

Certainly. To set it up, contact our Executive Director by email or phone: 215-820-7703.

We are funded through donations and grants. Because we lend money rather than give it away, a single donation may be used to help dozens of people.

We write off well under 1% of the money we lend. Because we require co-signers, we are able to collect virtually every dollar we lend.

We gave our first traditional loan in 1984; we began offering business loans in 2013. Hebrew Free Loan movement is much older than we are. Some members of the International Association of Jewish Free Loans date back to the 19th century, and Jewish communities throughout the world have had interest-free lending for centuries.

We are operated by a volunteer board of directors. We also have a part-time Executive Director.

We have a part-time Executive Director and a part-time Administrator/Bookkeeper.

If you’re interested in serving on our volunteer board, or helping in any other way, contact our Executive Director by email or phone: 215-820-7703.

If your group meets in or near our service area, we’d be happy to send someone to speak. There’s no charge, though we’d happily accept a donation.

We don’t have one. Our staff and volunteer Board Members work from home granting and managing our loans. Beth Sholom Congregation in Elkins Park serves as our mailing address. Beth Sholom and other institutions donate meeting space where we conduct our business and meet with borrowers.

We have no fixed hours. Our part-time Executive Director schedules time according to the tasks at hand. Our volunteer board members, who handle the work of granting and managing loans, fit HFL work in between their jobs and families. As a Jewish organization, however, we do not conduct business on Shabbat (Friday night and Saturday) or on Jewish holidays.

There are a number of other agencies in Philadelphia that help those with financial need. A good place to start is Jewish Information and Referral Service. There are Hebrew Free Loan agencies in many other places, as well. Check the website of the International Association of Jewish Free Loans to see if you live in the service area of another Hebrew Free Loan agency. Be aware that each listed agency is independent, and has its own lending criteria.