Hebrew Free Loan convention marks a coup for S.F.

In bringing together some 100 free-loan personnel from around North America — most workshops and discussions are free and open to the public — the local HFLA hopes to focus not only on such technical topics as the nuts and bolts of loan granting and fund-raising, but also on the more human side of the loan business.

Between organized jaunts to Pier 39, Coit Tower, the Palace of Fine Arts and Ghirardelli Square, participants from more than 20 Hebrew Free Loan organizations will explore how to reject loan applicants gracefully and other nuances of client-caseworker relationships.

Continuing along personal lines, attendees also will focus considerable attention on the growing trend toward Jewish communal agencies working together to meet clients' needs.

During a session on interagency relationships, Anita Friedman, executive director of Jewish Family and Children's Services, and Abby Snay, executive director of Jewish Vocational Service, will address such interplay.

They will join Shana Novick, executive director of the New York Hebrew Free Loan Society, to discuss the ways agencies can partner up to assist clients affected by welfare reform and other circumstances.

According to Irwin Wiener, executive director of the HFLA here, in an era in which charitable dollars are more stretched than ever, some Jewish communities have yet to master the fine art of consolidation.

"A lot of the agencies in the communities are out there doing their own things without concern for the total picture," he says. "That's one of the issues that has be tackled."

Ruth Marcus, president of the IAHFL, also emphasizes the value of HFLAs working in concert with other organizations.

"Lots of times people will come to the free loan thinking their `problem' is money," she says.

"Money may be an issue, but it's not necessarily the only thing. It doesn't necessarily solve family problems. Working together, we can help families address all the issues, whatever they are."

Underscoring that philosophy, a number of local Jewish leaders will jump into the Hebrew Free-Loan fray at the upcoming conference. Phyllis Cook, director of the Jewish Community Endowment Fund of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation, will offer her thoughts on fund-raising for the future.

Brian Lurie, president of the Jewish Museum San Francisco, will speak at a Monday lunch. Wayne Feinstein, the federation's executive vice president, will deliver the keynote address at a dinner that evening.

In between listening, shmoozing, touring and noshing, participants will be invited to coalesce for Torah study.

"I am very concerned about us putting the `Hebrew' back in the Hebrew Free Loan," Marcus says. "We do what we do not just because we get a paycheck or because we like being volunteers. We do it because we have an obligation as Jews to do it."

Leslie Katz
Leslie Katz

Leslie Katz is the former culture editor at CNET and a former J. staff writer. Follow her on Twitter @lesatnews.