Hebrew Free Loan honors two community activists

George Krevsky was visiting a sister in Napa when wildfire swept across the Oakland hills one bone dry October day in 1991. Within hours, his Rockridge home had been burnt to cinders.

An art collector, Krevsky and his wife, Doris, lost everything.

George Krevsky

With his last dimes, Krevsky called a friend at the Hebrew Free Loan Association in San Francisco. Less than a day later, Krevsky had a check to help carry him through the disaster, and he never forgot it. He paid back the loan, but felt his debt to HFLA could never fully be repaid.

He became a regular donor to the agency, and to this day routinely opens his San Francisco art gallery for HFLA fundraisers.

Now he — along with community activist Franny Green — will be honored at HFLA’s 2011 fundraising gala. “Community Masterpieces” takes place Sunday, May 22 at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco.

Since 1897, HFLA has granted interest-free loans to Jews across Northern California who face unexpected financial trouble or need help with school or business loans. Currently the agency has more than $6.3 million loaned out.

Said HFLA executive director Ed Cushman, “We wanted to make sure that for this year’s event we honored one of our more senior, long-term leaders and a former borrower who has accomplished a lot in life. Franny and George exemplify the values of HFLA. It was an easy choice.”

Krevsky, 71, says he was shocked and humbled when Cushman told him of the honor. Green says she felt the same — though as a former HFLA board member and its first woman president, perhaps she should not have been so surprised.

“HFLA was a different kind of agency,” Green said, “lending money instead of giving it. They gave loans for schooling, for business, adoption, to people who needed food, money for people in terrible trouble. They’ve always had good people.”

Franny Green

Green, 82, is the daughter of Lloyd Dinkelspiel, a scion of Bay Area Jewish philanthropy. She says her father taught her the importance of giving back to the community. Over the years she has worked with many Bay Area Jewish institutions, serving on the board of Mount Zion Hospital, the Jewish Community Relations Council and Sinai Memorial Chapel.

She’s also been a glass ceiling smasher, having become the first woman president of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation, the Jewish Home and HFLA. This was back in the ’60s and early ’70s when some men might not have approved the notion. Not so in San Francisco.

“When I was president the men were very nice,” she says of her multiple presidential tenures. “We had tremendous help from the men — they never made [me] feel badly.”

Though known for his self-named gallery of American art in downtown San Francisco, Krevsky is also a longtime Jewish community activist. His first job was serving as camp director of the Jewish community center in his native Harrisburg, Pa. He worked in similar capacities at JCCs in Fort Worth and Nashville, before relocating to the Bay Area in 1972.

His love of art goes way back, as well. He studied it at Penn State, organized the first exhibition of Israeli art in Fort Worth, and always dreamed of opening his own gallery. In 1992, he opened the gallery.

His Jewish activism never stopped. Krevsky served on the boards of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival and the New Israel Fund, the latter bestowing upon him its Guardian of Democracy Award in 2006.

But HFLA holds a special place in his heart.

“My grandmother told me that when young brides got married during the Depression, no matter how much money they had, they had to give to HFLA,” he recalls. “If people ask, ‘Are we our brother’s keeper?’ — we are.”

“Community Masterpieces: A Gala Event Benefiting Hebrew Free Loan”
takes place 5:30 p.m. Sunday, May 22 at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, 3200 California St., S.F. Tickets: $250. Information: (415) 546-9902 or www.hflasf.org.


Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.