History of Jewish Free Loan Toronto
A Legacy of Lending, A History of Hope
The Jews who immigrated to Toronto in the early 1900s had difficulty finding employment, in particular the Shabbat observant members of the community. Consequently, these individuals had to seek out entrepreneurial possibilities which were financed by the early versions of communal loan societies.
The Loan Cassa originally served the community by offering loans to settle Jews in agricultural colonies on lands purchased by the Jewish Colonization Association of Canada. With funding from the estate of Baron de Hirsch, these loans were intended only for new immigrants who had been in Canada for less than 8 years. As Loan Cassa evolved over the years, it operated in partnership with the United Jewish Relief Agency and the Canadian Jewish Congress, and became the agency that provided business loans to the community.
A Free Loan Society was formed in Toronto in 1911, under Associated Hebrew Charities. It operated on a very informal basis, with promissory notes being guaranteed by prominent individuals. By 1917 it was deeply in debt, with only two dollars in its treasury. In 1922, Rabbi Barnett Brickner recommended a new Free Loan Society, to be financed by B’nai Brith and private donors. With $3,800 from B’nai Brith and $1,350 from community members, the first meeting of the Hebrew Free Loan Association was held on Dec.7, 1922 at the Zionist Institute, at the corner of Beverly and Cecil Streets. On July 12, 1924, Letters Patent were signed and sealed, incorporating Toronto G’Milath Chasodim Association. Twelve Jewish men, “all of the City of Toronto, in the County of York and Province of Ontario” were the founding members of the corporation, which was established “to assist deserving applicants for relief.”
Historically, the B’nai Brith Organization and the National Council of Jewish Women provided the funds for student loans. Their original contributions were effective in establishing this community service, “by providing funds through loans to those students academically capable but financially unable to continue studies leading to vocational preparation.” In 1957, when additional community support was required, the Scholarship In Aid program began operating under the auspices of the United Jewish Welfare Fund. Toronto Hebrew Re-Establishment Services assumed responsibility for, and administered, the program.
Recognizing that the community would be best served by one free loan organization, TJFLC (Toronto Jewish Free Loan Cassa (G’milath Chasodim) Association) was formed in 1985 through a merger of Toronto’s business, personal and educational loan agencies. In 2011, the board of directors approved a new name, Jewish Free Loan Toronto (JFLT) in furtherance of a new marketing and outreach initiative.
JFLT supports the position that the Jewish community assumes a responsibility to assist and to invest in the future of its community members. JFLT is proud to carry on with the important work of G’milath Chasodim – Helping Others To Help Themselves.