Families struggling to pay for Jewish day school now have another option to help with the burden: an interest-free loan from Jewish Free Loan Toronto (JFLT).
Tuition costs have “been identified as a problem and we want to give one more resource to people,” said Marra Messinger, the organization’s executive director. “We understand it is a difficulty in the Jewish community and we wanted to help the community in the best way we could.”
Families in need will be able to borrow up to $12,000 to pay for tuition from pre-school to Grade 12. The loan will complement other subsidies and assistance they receive.
To make the process “less intrusive,” only one guarantor for the loan will be needed, instead of the two usually required for a loan of this size, Messinger said.
Decisions about recipients will be made on a case-by-case basis, she added.
The new loans were welcomed by Daniel Held, the executive director of the Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Education. “Solving the challenge of day school affordability and sustainability requires a broad spectrum of actors to work together,” he told The CJN in an email. “We’re glad that JFLT is taking a leadership role in helping families afford a day school education and know that the program will assist families today and make our community stronger into the future.”
JFLT is also introducing “wellness loans,” which can be used to pay for assessments and therapy for children with special needs. Recently, a family borrowed money to take their autistic child to Israel for treatment, Messinger said.
The JFLT, now in its 95th year, offers a variety of loans for various needs, including fertility treatments, university education and small businesses. Most loans require two guarantors and range from a maximum of $8,000 to $12,000.
An emergency loan of up to $1,000, which does not require a guarantor, is also available.
Even the smallest loans can be life-changing for someone who needs help making ends meet, Messinger said. These personal loans are used to cover the costs of winter clothing, bills, dental work and medical equipment that are not covered by the provincial government.
“It’s a very, very wise form of helping,” she said.
Almost all the loans (99 per cent of the larger loans) are paid back, she added.
The organization has not only expanded the types of needs it services, but its catchment area, as well. A few years ago, it made the decision to help Jews in need throughout Ontario, except for Ottawa, which has its own free loan system. It kept its name as the Toronto Free Loan Society, however.
The number of loans it gives out has also grown steadily over the last few years. In 2018, 317 loans, totaling $1.8 million, were given out, which was up from 234 loans in 2017. Those loans include 37 loans given in partnership with other agencies, such as March of the Living, and 64 loans without guarantors that were given to individuals earning less than $1,200 a month.
The increasing number of loans indicates that the level of need is growing in Ontario, Messinger said.
Currently, 867 loans, worth $3.3 million, are outstanding, according to JFLT. The organization is funded by private donors, who may earmark funds for people with specific needs, such as abused women or new immigrants, and UJA Federation of Greater Toronto.