The Ottawa Chevra Mishnayes Free Loan Society was founded in 1933.
The first General Meeting was held on November 9t, 1933 with Mr. Moses Doctor presiding. Members of the Chevra Mishnayos (group of men who studied Mishna) from various synagogues were nominated to membership of the Free Loan Society. As the membership overlapped within these two groups, this was reflected in the original name of the organization.
By 1940, the group was known as the Ottawa Hebrew Free Loan Association. It is a registered charity which operates independantly of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa.
The object of the society was then, as it is to this day, to render financial assistance free of charge to members of the Jewish community. The society has been of particular assistance to immigrants.
In 1935, loans were provided in sums up to $100, later increasing to $500 and then $600 in the 1940’s. As of 1991, 2,923 loans had been granted. By that time, money was loaned in sums up to $2,000 to applicants without charge of interest or expense of any kind.
An annual special Shabbat was held every year, beginning in 1935, on Shabbat Parsha Mishpatim. The annual Shabbat rotated between the Rideau Street Synagogue (Agudath Achim) and the King Edward Street Synagogue (Adath Jeshrun). Beginning in 1957 the annual Shabbat was held at Beth Shalom Synagogue. In 1967 the annual Shabbat was switched to Shabbat Parsha Porah, the Shabbat before Purim. In 1973, it was decided that in future the annual Shabbat would be held between Passover and Shavuot so as not to conflict with Jewish Aid canvassing. It was discontinued as a method of fundraising due to increased costs. An annual tea was also held beginning in February 1937 until 1961, when it was discontinued in favour of a telephone campaign. Initially the tea was held at the Talmud Torah Hall on George Street and later in the Social Hall of the Jewish Community Centre on Chapel Street.
A Jerusalem Branch was launched in Israel in 1963, followed by the Tel Aviv Branch in 1967 and the Natanya Branch in 1973, to assist Israelis. These branches were closed due to hyper inflation in Israel which depleated capital assets of the association.
Throughout its existence, the Ottawa Free Loan Association has had only five presidents: Leon Petegorsky served from 1934-1953, Solomon Zelikovitz from 1954-1968, Thomas Sachs from 1969-1974, Bill Grossman to the late 1990's and Charles Wiseman from late 1990's to present.
The association occupied offices at the Jewish Community Centre on Chapel Street and met on Sunday mornings from 10:00 am to 12:00pm. The office moved to the premises of Jewish Family Services on Carling Avenue in 2002 and is still operating there today.
As of 2014, loans are provided in sums up to $3,000.
Donation occured sometime after 2003.
1. Originally, the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin published annual reports of the Association. Now, financial statements are available through CRA.
2. Restrictions discussed and agreed upon with Charles Wiseman, President, in 2010.
100 years for any material containing personal information related to loans. Minutes are restricted - however exceptions will be made upon receiving written permission from the president
The Association was founded in 1911 as the personal project of businessman Zigmond Fineberg. As he said at the opening meeting, held at the Baron de Hirsch Institute on May 28, 1911: It has been my lifelong ambition to see established in this city a Hebrew Free Loan Association: a Society "That would help man to help himself," one that would build manhood instead of making paupers, one that would stimulate instead of depress ambition… Since 1911 the Hebrew Free Loan Association of Montreal has helped over 95,000 people by providing interest-free loans for a variety of purposes, but all with the same goal – to help man help himself. (From www.hflamtl.org/en/aboutus.php "About Us.")
Donated to the Jewish Public Library Archives by the Hebrew Free Loan Association under the authority of Mark Mintzberg in 2018.