In the spirit of a multi-century-old Jewish tradition, a new gemach was created to grant interest-free loans that provide liquidity and relief to our broader community in Teaneck, Bergenfield and New Milford.
With the launch of the Teaneck Bergenfield Gemach, local community members now have easier access to interest-free loans provided in a confidential, quick and dignified manner.
The Teaneck Bergenfield Gemach (TBG) provides interest-free loans averaging $5,000 for residents of Teaneck, Bergenfield and New Milford. TBG was developed under the halachic guidance of Rabbi Yaakov Neuburger, and is overseen by friendly, seasoned and active community members Jackie Feigenbaum and Michael Kronenberg.
Those interested in obtaining an interest-free loan can visit TBG’s user-friendly website, www.tbgemach.com, and download the loan application form. Applications are reviewed in a timely fashion by a two-person team of loan underwriters, and applicants’ personal information is not shared with anyone beyond the loan underwriters. Two co-signers are typically required, and the loan typically needs to be repaid within 12 months, explained Michael Kronenberg. The process is simple and non-invasive.
Interest-free loan gemachs offer people an opportunity to make a “wise financial decision,” said Nicolas Weill, a Teaneck resident who works in the finance industry. “Borrowing without interest is smarter than maxing out your credit card at a 20% interest rate,” he said. A credit card balance of $5,000 or more can result in interest payments of more than $1,000 over the course of a year. If you keep on making minimum payments, you pay more in interest than the original loan.” Interest-free loans can help people pay off their debts more quickly, without the added burden of paying interest charges.
Interest-free loan gemachs were common among Jewish communities in Eastern Europe, and Jews who immigrated to the United States brought the concept along with them. TBG is the latest in broader efforts to revitalize the popularity of interest-free loans. Hebrew Free Loan of New Jersey, for example, recently expanded its reach to include Bergen County.
“The Torah views interest-free loans as the quintessential chesed (kindness), probably because they bring together many layers of goodness,” said Rabbi Neuburger. “The lender reminds himself of the blessings of a financial cushion, and the calm that it brings, and his empathy for those who cannot make ends meet deepens. With the loan, the borrower hears the encouraging message that he is a worthy investment and that we are confident in his abilities, and the lender has a vested interest in the borrower’s upswing and we may extend other forms of help to him as he certainly becomes a real part of our prayers.”
TBG’s interest-free loans can be helpful to members of the community in different ways. Those who recently lost their jobs may need a short-term loan to cover the cost of their mortgage for a few months until they find a new job. Others who work on commission or have fluctuating income throughout the year may find that an interest-free loan helps smooth out their budgets. Interest-free loans can also be helpful to those who need to replace a large appliance or roof, as well as parents making a wedding or bar/bat mitzvah.
An interest-free loan allows you to spread out repayment over the course of a year, without incurring additional interest payments. It is a smarter and more responsible financial decision than taking out an equity line of credit, paying only the minimum balance on credit card balances or taking out a private loan from a commercial institution.
“Some say that loaning money is a bigger mitzvah than giving charity,” said Jackie Feigenbaum. “The person borrowing doesn’t feel like they are taking anything for free. It helps put him back on his feet.” Plus, once the loan is paid back, the funds can be recycled to provide additional loans.
The gemach is run with confidentiality and a very understanding approach, said Weill. “It’s not bureaucratic, and it’s not intrusive. It’s a smart decision to avoid paying high interest rates.”
“In a culture which views available funds as a tool for investment or entertainment, the communal gemach is a refreshing reminder of Who provides our funds and how much goodness we can pay forward with them,” said Rabbi Neuburger.
To learn more about the Teaneck Bergenfield Gemach, please visit www.tbgemach.com� or email [email protected].
Tamar Snyder Chaitovsky is an award-winning journalist and nonprofit professional. She lives in Teaneck with her husband and children.