The large group at the home of Jay and Judy Kessler in Toco Hills was treated to dinner, a sing-along and moving anecdotes illustrating the impact of Jewish Interest Free Loan of Atlanta.
A parallel fun-filled progressive dinner took place in Dunwoody, with appetizers at the home of Karen and Stuart Adler, dinner at the home of Robyn and Alan Regenbaum, and dessert at the home of Adrien Litt Bishko. The event co-chairs were Amanda Bunder in Dunwoody and Lisa Marks in Toco Hill.
The event Sunday night, March 26, was a celebration of this special Jewish organization and a tribute to the donors and loan guarantors in attendance. As supporters Mark and Marsha Strazynski said: “We Jews have a mandate to lend money to other Jews without charging interest. It’s grassroots, anonymous and never demeaning.”
During the evening, we heard many stirring JIFLA stories.
A man suddenly lost his job and had house and car payments to make. The money he borrowed sustained him until he got another job. His guarantors assumed responsibility in case he could not fulfill the loan agreement, but he completed the repayment in less than six months.
After insurance, an elderly woman needed an additional $350 to pay for hearing aids. She borrowed the money from JIFLA and repaid the loan monthly from her Social Security checks.
A young man borrowed money toward college tuition and gradually paid it back from his part-time job.
A woman needed $1,000 for medicine and repaid the loan with $50 each month.
Laura Kahn, the group’s volunteer president, gave impressive statistics. JIFLA’s maximum individual loan is $5,000; the average loan is $3,400. Borrowers have up to 36 months to repay.
“Every dollar we lend,” she said, “is totally recycled. JIFLA gets a repayment, and we lend it again. We’re the alternative to a bank or high-interest credit card, and it’s often hard to go to your family for financial help. That’s why we’re here.”
Donors come from all segments of Jewish Atlanta; a typical donation to JIFLA is $500.
Jay Kessler wants synagogues to use JIFLA. “Rabbis can use charity and discretionary funds for people who cannot repay the money and encourage the others to go to JIFLA,” he said. “It’s not charity. It’s a loan.”
The free-loan program in Atlanta was started by the late Malka Rosenbaum and grew under the management of Mort Barr, who now lives in Israel. Nancy Weissman is the present executive director, taking the organization to an ever-expanding group of donors, guarantors and users.