From the DJN Foundation Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History
Mike Smith Detroit Jewish News Foundation Archivist
Most weeks in the JN, one can find an advertisement for Hebrew Free Loan on page 3. This week, I decided to explore the history of this well-known organization in the Davidson Digital Archives, now hosted as an online collection at the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan but still accessed through the Detroit Jewish News Foundation website.
I found more than 2,000 pages citing Hebrew Free Loan (HFL). Within those pages from the JN and the Jewish Chronicle are some really good stories.
In Detroit, HFL was founded by 10 members of the city’s Jewish community in the back room of a cobbler’s shop in 1895. This makes HFL one of the oldest Jewish support organizations in Michigan. The 10 men raised $500 to fund the organization and, since that time, the HFL has helped thousands of people in need. Many of the people it has helped have been and are new arrivals to the city.
For a good history of the early years of HFL, I found an article by Arthur Lipsitt in the March 18, 1983, issue of the JN. Lipsitt, a Toronto, Canada, native, was a businessman in Detroit for many years and a board member of HFL, hence, his deep personal interest in this history. He and his wife had moved into the Jewish Home for the Aged, but Lipsitt stayed active, becoming a local historian.
But, I really liked the story and image I found on a page in the JN from Oct. 7, 1994. It is a photo of Anna Taradash and her husband, Naum Tsemekbman, with a letter from Anna citing the help HFL gave them to obtain a car and, for a second time, to begin a business. This is just one of the heartfelt stories about the great work that Hebrew Free Loan has done in Detroit for 123 years.
Want to learn more? Go to the DJN Foundation archives, available for free at www.djnfoundation.org.