Go out and get yourself a loan, said the editor to the reporter.
And a story! he shouted at the retreating back of the news scribe.
So the reporter went to the Hebrew Free Loan Society at 108 Second avenue for a loan of $25 and for a story on how he was treated while applying for that seeming paradoxâ€”a free loan.
Would he be treated like a charity applicant? Or would he be made to feel that borrowing good United States currency with no interest tags affixed to it is as natural as eating ice cream with apple pie?
Although lacking the imposing marble-and gilt-encrusted dignity of the Wall street banking edifice, the Hebrew Free Loan Society headquarters do have that unmistakable something that sets it apart from, say, a real estate office. There are the barred windows behind which stand clerks in the conventional bank teller’s garb. The reporter saw small queues at several windows, people repaying loans. And despite the business-like bustle there was the unmistakable banking-house hush.
ENTER H. L. BRAVERMAN
The loan seeker was directed to a rail-enclosed office occupied by Hyman L. Braverman, a pleasant-faced young man who, except for the unbanker-like friendliness of his face, might for all the world be the vice-president in charge of loans of any Wall street financial institution.
Braverman, it appears, is the “key” man of the organization. Practically every request for a loan has to be approved by him before the society’s directors pass on it.
He proved to be far from the proverbially frigid type of banker and the applicant found himself submitting to a formal businesslike interview with a friendly, personal touch to it that made him forget completely about the “free” part of the loan he had come to request. After answering the customary questions and producing the names of two endorsers, the reporter reverted to type and began doing some interviewing on his own account.
“I notice some people around here who don’t look very Jewish,” he said. “How come? Is this a Hebrew Free Loan Society or isn’t it?”
Money, Braverman answered, is lent to people who apply for it here irrespective of nationality, religion or race.
Even persons of German extraction, he disclosed, are being accommodated by the society.
Yes, he smiled. Some of them are undoubtedly Nazis who when they come in are obviously skeptical and who when they leave seem to have difficulty in restraining signs of astonishment from their broad Teutonic faces. Braverman even ventured the opinion that the work of the society is helping to convert many Nazis from anti-Semitic sentiments to pro-Jewish attitudes.
Among the various peoples that have been granted loans by the Hebrew Free Loan Society are Negroes, Chinese, Hindus, Japanese and white Christians. The large majority, of course, are Jewish.
Although Braverman never questions applicants as to the reasons behind their requests for loans, the average applicant seldom fails to volunteer the information.
A Negro girl told him she wanted $25 to start a day nursery. She got it and the nursery is in a flourishing condition, with the money repaid.
THE PIG’S EYE
One woman borrowed $25 to pay her lawyer for getting her a divorce. A young man borrowed $50 because he wanted to buy a suitable gift for his grandparents who were celebrating their fiftieth wedding anniversary. A mature man asked for $100 and said he needed it to, buy himself an eye. It was a pig’s eye, too, believe it or not. He got the loan.
Many loans are used to purchase tombstones for dead relatives. Many more are used to pay insurance premiums. Some persons borrow for business expansion. Others use the borrowed money to establish themselves as lawyers, dentists, doctors.
In good times the loans are fewer in number, Braverman revealed, but larger in sum. There are many more $500 loans, the maximum, when there are two chickens in every pot and two cars in every garage. Today the requests are mostly for small sums, from five to twenty-five dollars.
P.S.: The reporter reported back to his editor minus the $25 loan and almost got fired. He forgot the loan, but he discovered in the process of forgetting it that the Hebrew Free Loan Society operates like a real bank, where people are treated on a thoroughly business-like basis that would do justice to the most rigidly conducted banking house on Wall street. The society is an affiliate of the Federation for the Support of Jewish Philanthropic Societies.