|Friday, 28 October 2011 00:00|
Calgary Jewish Family Loan Association
Eighty years of service to the Calgary Jewish community and in honour of our ancestors who started it.
In 1931, Jack Bleviss was denied a loan from English Jews on the grounds that Polish Jews should get money from other Polish Jews. At first puzzled and offended that Jews were treated differently based on country of origin, the Polish Jews of the extended Switzer family took up the idea. On January 8, 1932, the Polish Jewish Family Loan Association was registered, "solely to aid members who are temporarily embarrassed financially, by loaning small sums to members of the Society at no cost or interest payable by the borrowers..."
On January 8, 2012, the Association, now called the Calgary Jewish Family Loan Association to recognize there is no distinction among Jews, will celebrate 80 years of helping Jews in the Calgary region and beyond. Its current co-chairs, Lil Faider and Mort Levitt, and its treasurer, Annie Brodsky, met to reminisce about their time on the executive and their long affiliation with the organization.
Lil said: “We all need a sense of belonging and to belong to something that has helped so many is really heartwarming.”
Mort said: “I’ve had a hand in helping someone who never has to say thank you to me. Don’t need a thank you; it’s enough to get up in the morning and know you’ve helped without knowing the recipient or the recipient knowing me.”
Annie Brodsky: “I’ve been told the story of someone who got married many years ago and the bride’s father took out a loan to make the down payment on the newlywed’s first house. Years later, that bride joined because she remembered how the Association helped her. We never ask the reason someone took out a loan. Sometimes they tell us what they’re doing with the money and I listen. But I never ask. I know some are paying bills with it. Loans are for everything from leisure activities, to trips to Hawai’i to heart transplant expenses. They’re members; they can take a loan and do whatever they need with it.”
What does a member say about the Association?
Sondra Gelfant was so grateful for her three loans that she wanted to tell the story.
“My husband had left, I was getting no support and had been left with a lot of matrimonial debt so didn’t qualify for bank credit. I couldn’t get anything. I was going through bad financial trauma and had a desperate need of funds. I’d sold everything I could to feed the kids and was working three jobs. It was hard to keep two boys; it was a hard way to live. I heard about [the Calgary Jewish Family Loan Association] from someone at work.
“The first loan was 12 years ago. My two children needed funding for a school trip. Another time – I think it was for my son’s grade 12 graduation – I had no money for a tux or to do things with his peers. $40.00 would buy some groceries or put gas in the car. The last loan was $3,000.00 for the partial down payment for a house; finally getting out of paying rent. That small loan got me to a point where I am now.
“It’s easy to pay back over two years and low monthly payments. I was struggling initially but at least I wasn’t paying interest on it, with no interest accumulating I wasn’t paying off only interest.
“That’s why I always keep paying the $20.00 yearly membership fee - because it helped me so much. It isn’t much to give back. Getting a loan was a simple process; I applied and it was done. Annie [Brodsky] has been such a gem – so helpful, never judgmental and was always so kind. If there’s anything I can do for the loan association, I’d be happy to do it. When you’re in those straights and someone throws you a lifeline, it’s helpful. It’s been a positive experience for me.”
Annie said: “The Association’s very important as far as I’m concerned. The elders who started it were all very loving charitable men who were concerned about those who couldn’t afford to make a living without some help. Best guess is that many hundreds of loans have been given out. There’s no official records of numbers of loans given out. Loans have even been given to the original founding members’ descendants who live in other cities.”
Becoming a member means that the dues you pay are available to give as loans for those who need it. Call Annie, Mort or Lil to become a member of the Calgary Jewish Family Loan Association.
The last word is from Sondra again: “You never can know what those loans are accomplishing. The loans made a difference when every penny counted. The boys could eat so much. Now, my younger son is involved in the Jewish community; he’s doing quite well. My older son went to SAIT. It was wonderful that there was something there for me. I hope the Association does continue on for others to use.”
(Submitted to the Jewish Free Press.)