JELF (Jewish Educational Loan Fund) has been helping the Jewish community since 1889 when the doors of the Hebrew Orphans' Home opened in Atlanta, not far from what is now the site of Turner Field. Over the last 140+ years, the organization has transformed twice: first, in 1931, when it became Jewish Children's Service, and then, as the organization had already begun granting interest-free loans in the early-1960's, it formally changed its name to JELF (Jewish Educational Loan Fund) in 1989. >Read more about JELF's History.
JELF loans are available to students who have been residents of Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina or Virginia (excluding metro-DC) for at least 1 year immediately preceding the application deadline.
The reason that JELF services these five states is because the organization was originally formed under the former B'nai Brith District No. 5 region, which at the time stretched from Washington, D.C. to the tip of Florida. It is our hope that one day we will serve even more states throughout the country.
Our mission is very simple -- JELF provides interest-free, last dollar loans for higher education to Jewish students in need in the same 5-state region we have always served. Higher education includes college, graduate school or any other degree-granting vocational programs.
Students in need of a loan apply online. There are two open loan periods each year: March 1 through April 30 (for assistance for the upcoming school year's fall/spring/summer terms) and September 1 - 30 (for assistance for the spring/summer terms only).
Once an eligible student completes the online application and submits required supporting documents, the student and a designated co-signer have an interview with their local JELF administrator (LJA) so the LJA can learn more about the student's situation and financial need.
JELF holds Loan Review sessions each July and November, which is when committee members allocate funds to students through an anonymous process. After these sessions, students are notified via email about whether they will receive a JELF loan and for how much. The student and their co-signer(s) must then sign a promissory note, guaranteeing to pay back their loan, and pick up their loan check (made payable to the student) from their LJA. >FAQ about the Loan Process.
JELF loans are intended to be "last dollar" loans and thus, bridge the gap between financial aid received and the total amount a student needs for school. In 2018, both the average undergraduate loan, as well as the average graduate school loan, was $3,600.
JELF's Board of Directors is made up of 41 Jewish community members throughout our 5-state region, several of whom are former JELF recipients themselves, or have personal stories about how JELF helped a member of their family obtain a post-secondary degree. >2019 Board of Directors
In 2018, students applying to JELF had a total need of $1,263,266. Unfortunately, JELF was unable to meet the total need and instead allocated $1,011,266 to 279 students - more money to more students than ever before. Each year, our applicants' need is greater than what JELF is able to fund, which is why our fundraising efforts only continue to increase. >Read more in JELF's 2017 Annual Report.
JELF relies on three primary sources of funding: (1) fundraising from individuals and foundations; (2) student loan repayments; (3) interest earned off JELF's investment account. Each year, JELF's Finance Committee and Board of Directors analyze these figures to determine how much funding the organization can allocate in a given year.
JELF is an independent organization that is unique in its mission. Some of the things that make JELF very different are that we serve only higher education and operate in a five-state region, rather than one metropolitan city. JELF is a proud member of the International Association of Jewish Free Loans (IAJFL), a network of nearly 50 interest-free lending agencies around the world. JELF also partners with 21 Jewish agencies within our region.
JELF currently has $6 million "on the streets" (loaned out to students from each of our five states). This includes students who are currently in school and graduates who have already begun to repay.
JELF allows donors to sponsor a student by committing to a 4-year donation of $2,500+ per year. Sponsoring a student helps ensure that students who are receiving funding from JELF can continue receiving that funding throughout their 4 years of school. Sponsor-a-Student (SAS) opportunities are offered at three levels (beginning at $2,500/year), each of which provides the donor benefits that help them further engage with JELF students. SAS levels reflect average loan amounts to students at different levels of need annually.
In addition to its Board of Directors, JELF has a host of volunteer opportunities in many of the areas that we serve. Individuals involved with JELF work on a number of committees, such as Loan Program, Resource Development, Finance, Investment, Visibility and more. JELF also hosts several events each year and is always looking for new ways to engage with our target market.
Contact [email protected] to learn more about getting involved!
The Jewish community has always known that education is an essential tool to maintain the strength of our people. The goal of JELF is simple - to help Jewish students in need realize their potential. However, the cost of higher education continues to escalate at a rate that outpaces the rise in the cost of living. As the number of JELF applicants climbs each year, we strive to meet the growing demand.
But we can't do it without your help.
JELF depends on supporters throughout our five-state region to accomplish our mission and to spread the word about our loans. With demand for loans increasing each year, we need your financial support to keep pace.