By Deb Silverthorn
Dallas Hebrew Free Loan Association’s motto of providing a “hand-up, not a handout” has its arms stretched open wider and then some as the organization supports community members.
“We’re here to help people make choices and to bring stability to our Jewish community,” said Jane Larkin, who came on as executive director last summer. “Our ‘hand-up’ works.”
DHFLA is the only organization in Collin, Dallas, Denton, Ellis and Rockwall counties providing no-interest loans for adoption and fertility, burial needs, health care, higher education, Jewish experiences including summer camp, b’nai mitzvah expenses, Jewish youth group activities and gap year programs, small business, special needs and emergency and general assistance loans to the Jewish community.
The loans, with repayment schedules that can be tailored, range from $500 to more than $20,000. Many loan applications can be turned around in 24 to 48 hours and, in most cases, funds are deposited electronically. In its 86th year, the association now has 128 active loans and a 100% repayment rate.
Those wishing to support DHFLA’s efforts can do so by direct tax-deductible donations, by signing on as a guarantor of loans or by registering the agency to their Amazon Smile, Kroger Community Rewards and Tom Thumb Good Neighbor programs. All loan repayments are recycled back into the system to fund new loans.
“My work here is deeply personal, and it truly is a labor of love,” said Larkin, who has previously worked on staff at Temple Emanu-El and American Friends of Hebrew University’s Dallas office. “To hear the concern fall from the voice of a borrower, when we can tell them we can help — there’s nothing like it.”
Larkin works closely with her board, including executive officers Abby Fuqua, David Kronick, Eliot Shindler, Helen Waldman, Dorothy Wolchansky and Iris Young Sheppard. For example, the organization responded quickly in the aftermath of the February storms with $16,000 in loans.
“What may be an everyday issue to one person can be huge to another. We want to be, and we are, here to ease life’s financial strains,” said Kronick. “We want people to come to us rather than to put significant expenses on a credit card or borrow from a costly institution.”
New to Dallas Hebrew Free Loan Association is burial support, provided with seed funding by Gina and Alan Tolmas. They were motivated by their own experiences of taking care of arrangements for their own family members.
“A Jew should have a proper burial but because cremation is less expensive than a burial, families sometimes choose that route,” said Alan Tolmas, a donor for 10 years. “We hope to provide an alternative to cremation for Jewish families that are struggling financially, and DHFLA’s burial loan program will allow mourners support for an alternative.”
DHFLA’s loans can be made with one or two guarantors, depending on the loan. To ease the strain on borrowers who may not have local connections, the organization started its Angel Fund, money that can be made available to support those loans. In its first three-and-a-half months, the Angel Fund quickly raised $15,000, $8,500 of which has been lent against.
“The process was easy and I truly thank Dallas Hebrew Free Loan for giving me the support I needed. I’m glad to have also had the help of my parents,” said Mollie Rose, who has recently paid off her loan for her master’s degree at Southern Methodist University.
She is now the Mountain West community manager of Moishe House, supporting residents in Texas and the Rocky Mountain region. “I’m so glad I could pay off my loan and continue to help others in need.”
Aaron Blasband, a student at Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion, has benefited from the organization’s loans throughout his college career. Beginning with his undergraduate degree at Collin College, to Texas A&M University and ultimately HUC-JIR, the Dallas Hebrew Free Loan Association has made his academic experience possible.
“I realized, despite starting my studies in the sciences, what I really wanted to do was to make the connection for young Jews, to their Judaism,” said Blasband, now at HUC-JIR’s New York campus with an education internship beginning in the fall at Central Synagogue. Blasband’s own Jewish experience was enhanced by his involvement at Texas A&M’s Hillel and summers working at Greene Family Camp.
“The money I’ve been able to borrow has been a huge blessing,” said Blasband, who will graduate with a Master’s of Jewish Education in 2023 and be ordained as a rabbi in 2025. “It has absolutely allowed me to pursue my dreams.”
For more information on applying for a loan or making a tax-deductible donation to Dallas Hebrew Free Loan Association, visit dhfla.org or call 469-206-1639.