The cover of the HFLA
on the Home page of its
www.hflaclev.org has a post (see the image above)
"100 Years of Free Loans History" and invites a download. We
downloaded and saved the pdf document, not knowing what to
What we found is the richest, most detailed
history of a Cleveland Jewish institution we have ever
on the internet.
It is a
72 page booklet for the HLFA's 100th
anniversary. The history, The Hebrew Free Loan Association
1904 - 2003, was written in 2003 by Stanley Lasky PhD. (More
about Dr Lasky below.)
It begins with historical background
to give us an understanding
of the Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe who were
the Association's main client group in its early years.
Lasky shows how the Association grew and responded to changing community
and world conditions over its first century.
We learn that in 1905, only a year after
its formation, the Association became a beneficiary of
the Federation of Jewish Charities (today
Federation of Cleveland), though Lasky challenges the word
'beneficiary', noting that alone among agencies, the
HFLA was expected to repay these funds.
Lasky describes the changing needs over
the years: the immigrants from Eastern Europe, then
World War I, the depression, Jews fleeing from Germany
in the late 1930s, post World War II pressures, and the
arrival of Jews from the Former Soviet Union.
He tells of the
dedicated volunteers who led the Association and describes some changes they initiated. In the
narrative can be found interactions, sometimes tense, with
institutions. Editors of the English and Yiddish Jewish publications
- Daniel Wertheimer, Maurice Weidenthal and Samuel
Rocker - were strong supporters. The trustees came from all segments of
Cleveland's Jewish community with one glaring exception:
for its first 66 years the
HFLA resisted giving women a seat on the board.
Woven into the
history are glimpses of Federation's role in furnishing financial help
to the community over the years. This is welcome information, for in our view
Federation rarely tells its story. (An
example in our times is its outstanding, but untold, story of
resettling immigrants from the Former Soviet Union.)
The history ends with an assessment of the
present (2003) state of the Hebrew Free Loan
After citing sources for 113 footnotes, Lasky presents many detailed appendices.
We find short biographies of its charter members, data on assets and lending,
the locations of its offices over the years, lists of
executive directors, secretaries and trustees, and
a list of the major donors, with short biographies, who have raised its loan capital from an original $501 in 1904
to $641,000 in 2000.
Anniversary publications of charitable
organizations (for many years the HFLA insisted
that it was not a charity, nor were its clients
accepting charity) usually have a fundraising aspect. This booklet
was no exception. It ends with 15 pages of ads expressing congratulations and wishes
for future success.
This document is more than a history of an organization.
Stanley Lasky has given us a view of our
community and portrays a century of the lives of
Clevelanders and the Association that was there to help
them in times of financial need. This document was a great gift
that was hidden from view: never mentioned in the Cleveland Jewish
News nor, until recently, on the HFLA website.
View or download this .pdf document on
the Cleveland HFLA website.
Read our suggestions for working with large Adobe
Reader ® (.pdf)
Lasky earned Bachelor and Masters degrees in
History and Political Science at Western
Reserve University, followed by a PhD in
Sociology at Kent State University.
For many years he was a teacher and
administrator at Cleveland Heights High School.
After two years of intensive research on
antebellum Jewish Cleveland he and Nancy F Schwartz, then
curator of the Jewish Archives of the
Western Reserve Historical Society,
Cleveland before the Civil War". It is the best study we
have of Cleveland's Jewish pioneers, with a detailed data
base listing more than 800 persons. Testimony to the quality of the
is that the Journal of the Society for
American Jewish History (AJHS) published it
in two issues: the essay in its last issue
of 1994, followed by the appendices in the
first issue of 1995. This major work can be
found on these pages. For "Jewish
Cleveland before the Civil War"
Dr Lasky was ideally situated to write
Free Loan Association 1904 - 2003". He had
served on its board since 1994 and in 2001
he had organized the Hebrew Free Loan
Association archives at the WRHS.
Stanley Lasky and his wife reside in