There was a time — until the 1960s, in fact — when married women couldn’t open a bank account without their husband’s permission. And it was 1974 before single, widowed or divorced women could get credit without a male co-signer.
But not at Hebrew Free Loan. The organization has a long tradition of providing loans to women, board member Shari Tishman said on Oct. 17 as she welcomed some 100 guests to the top of the Salesforce Tower in San Francisco. The evening was a special fundraiser to support and celebrate Hebrew Free Loan’s history of giving women equal access to capital.
Jessica Pullen is finishing medical school at Stanford University thanks to one of those loans. Coming from an impoverished Jewish family, she found herself unable to pay her sister’s medical bills, and feared she’d have to drop out.
“By a miracle, I found Hebrew Free Loan,” she told the crowd. “I can’t put into words what it meant to my life.”
Leah Rosenthal-Kambic received a business loan from HFL seven years ago, when she became co-director of Kid Time, a pre-school in Walnut Creek that wanted to open an after-school program in Pleasant Hill.
“It was different at Hebrew Free Loan,” Rosenthal-Kambic said. “The retired Jewish lawyers and attorneys in the room took me seriously.” All they wanted to know was whether she could “do the work and would repay the loan.”
As women benefit from these loans and begin repaying, those funds go out the door again in new loans, providing what several speakers called a “cycle of empowerment,” enabling more people to “realize their dreams,” as Pullen put it.