NewsBits: Around the Jewish Web

from The Philadelphia Inquirer:

Interest-free, steeped in tradition

In tough economic times, a centuries-old financial lifeline might be one of the best-kept secrets in the Jewish community.

It is a secret whose roots go back to the Torah, where it is called an act of “loving kindness.”

When rent is due or tuition is short, there are loans available for thousands of dollars – interest free.

The programs are part of a tradition in the Jewish community of offering loans without interest to people in need. The money has helped families adopt babies, a woman buy a pacemaker, and immigrants start a new life.

“I was going to Israel, and I just needed some extra money,” said Yaron Gola of Northeast Philadelphia. “It was a tremendous blessing. It makes you feel a part of a community.”

About 50 groups in the United States and abroad lend millions in interest-free loans each year, said Mark Meltzer, past president and cofounder of the International Association of Hebrew Free Loans.

from The Jerusalem Post:

Gov’t considers new ways to entice olim

The Israeli government approved a new program on Sunday billed as an effort to promote a new wave of aliya from the former Soviet Union.

The NIS 32m. program is small, funded in equal parts by the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption.

The program will run for immigrants who come during 2009, with benefits paid out through 2010, and will offer new immigrant families grants of NIS 24,000, much of it to help pay the first year’s rent and cover vocational training. The grant is in addition to the generous absorption basket given to every new oleh upon arrival.