By Tiff Collier
The Hebrew Free Loan Society has introduced a loan adoption program that provides borrowers with up to $15,000.
Society leadership said that the program comes at a critical time when more people are turning to alternative means to start and expand their families. They said adoption, in particular, is important to the Jewish community, which adopts at twice the rate of the general population.
The program offers interest-free loans to adults connected to the Jewish community in the Greater Philadelphia region, including Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties in Pennsylvania, as well as Burlington, Camden, Gloucester and Mercer counties in Southern New Jersey.
The loan program features a streamlined application process. Once approved, payments start at as little as $300 a month, with repayment terms lasting up to four years.
In the past year, the society, which was founded 36 years ago, also introduced the Be a Family Fertility Fund, which provides loans for in-vitro fertilization. That fund has already helped one local couple realize their dream of becoming parents.
The organization believes the adoption loan program will be an important resource for local Jewish residents.
“It’s a game-changer for families,” Executive Director Cheryl Barish Erlick said, citing the rising costs of adoption, which now averages an estimated $43,000 in the United States.
Through her discussions with donors, Erlick knew the organization’s loan cap of $7,500 would have to be increased to meet the needs of adopting families.
Adoption’s often-prohibitive costs spurred the Loeb Family Charitable Fund to donate the resources needed to raise the loan amount for the adoption program, which the society hopes will provide initial funding for up to three families.
The charitable fund is spearheaded by area mathematician Dan Loeb, who noted that his brother’s challenges with the adoption process decades ago educated him on the legal and financial barriers people face.
For Loeb, funding the adoption program provides “loving parents with another way to bring a Jewish soul into the world.”
Erlick noted that the society is committed to being “mindful of the changing needs” of borrowers by tailoring its programs to reflect the priorities and values of the community. She said people increasingly are asking the society for assistance with educational and family expenses.
“Growth in education, fertility and adoption funding” are the organization’s top priorities, according to board President Amy Krulik. However, she said there is a delicate balance between generosity and sustainability that must be maintained.
“Unfortunately, we can’t fund everything,” Krulik said, adding that fundraising and outreach efforts are underway.
For instance, the society’s leadership speaks at community events, synagogues and social work agencies. The organization also benefits from word-of-mouth in the Jewish community, where supporters and advocates share information on the loan programs to friends, family and neighbors.
Krulik, who is the CEO of Kaiserman JCC in Wynnewood, believes the society’s loan programs are rooted in the legacy of the immigrant experience.
Growing up, Krulik remembered hearing stories from her Polish grandfather who settled in the Lower East Side neighborhood of New York City. These narratives were filled with anecdotes about how residents would practice collective giving, essentially growing a pot of money for neighbors who needed financial assistance.
Historically, these types of informal communal giving agreements that benefited Jewish immigrants in metropolitan areas across the United States were critical to establishing businesses and educating future generations.
It’s the tradition of economic empowerment that inspires Loeb, who is hopeful that the adoption loan program will expand in the future.
“It’s important for people to be there for each other,” he said.
Tiff Collier is a freelance writer.