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Hebrew Benevolent Loan Association Records

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MS-0200-0044

Scope and Contents

As all loan decisions and loan administration is confidential, the records of the Hebrew Benevolent Loan Association only include policy related materials and the organization’s historical memorabilia. There are various transliterations within the collection for the Hebrew phrase: Gemilut Hesed or Gemilath-Chasodim as well as other spellings variations. Researchers will be able to find an array of materials ranging from photographs to ephemera, to minutes and correspondence. Series I, Subseries A includes minutes, with associated materials as maintained by the Hebrew Benevolent Loan Association that often included correspondence, programs, and clippings that trace wider community developments and cooperation among various organizations connected to the Hebrew Benevolent Loan Association. This was particularly in evident when Hebrew Benevolent Loan Association offices were located in the Talmud Torah and the Jewish Community Center located on Delaware Avenue during the period for which we have records. Annual meetings rotated at various Jewish venues and area hotels and always included a speaker, usually a local rabbi from across the streams of Jewish identification. Music was an important part of these annual observances and utilized cantors often performing in Yiddish and Hebrew and their selection, and the form of musical programs, is often part of board discussions. Kosher caterers were employed for organizational functions. One intermittent item is the inclusion of ballot summaries for new officer slates, initially printed in Yiddish, then a mix of both Yiddish and English and more latterly English only, illustrating an acculturating community. The records are maintained as they were created with the combination of materials organized by year preserving operating practices. Records before 1939 have been lost, and there are significant gaps in certain categories of records that are retained. Series I, subseries B includes a small amount of ephemera that reveal aspects of patriotism (a felt flag embroidered with Gemilut Chasidim and God Bless America) and also observations of life passages (deaths, births, marriage, war service), through the utilization of different sides of officer pins (black side indicating mourning). Anniversary, and other meeting materials include programs, ticket stubs and photographs are part of this subseries.


  • 1939-2015
  • Majority of material found within 1939-1954


Language of Materials

Collection material in English, Yiddish, and Hebrew.

Terms of Access

The records of the Hebrew Benevolent Loan Association, 1939-2015 are open for research. There are no restrictions regarding access to or use of this collection.


Copyright of papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns. Researchers must obtain the written permission of the holder(s) of copyright and the University Archives before publishing quotations from materials in the collection. Most papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures unless otherwise specified.

Historical Note

The Hebrew Benevolent Loan Association (HBLA) was founded as Gemilath-Chasodim (“Acts of Loving Kindness”) in May 1897 when a small group of Jewish men gathered in the home of Sol Rubenstein at 267 William Street, Buffalo, New York. The association incorporated in 1898 and included among the founders: Sol Rubenstein, Jacob Rosing, Morris Diamond, Morris Balber, Harry Harriton, Aaron Cohen, Isaac Feldberg, Morris Shapiro, and Enoch Shulgasser. Members were led by the biblical injunction in Exodus XXII; 24, “If thou loan money to my people…thou shalt not lay upon him interest,” and this passage often appears in Hebrew Benevolent Loan Association materials. Those involved in the early founding has a particular perspective on the need for their organization, as they were themselves were of modest means and understood the necessity of supporting self-sufficiency among other East Side residents by providing small loans, thereby reducing exploitation by loan sharks. During the 1880s and 1890s, the Jewish immigrant population in Buffalo grew significantly. Many immigrants were extremely poor, having fled from legally prescribed lives that made economic success difficult. Jews in Europe had also faced intermittent violent attacks in the form of pogroms and sought a life free of violence where they could practice as Jews without fear of repression or attack. Small loans from the Hebrew Benevolent Loan Association enabled independence without charity especially during times of difficulty or crisis. Since founding the organization in 1897, the Hebrew Benevolent Loan Association has intermittently reassessed its services. While its first remit was for the benefit of newer immigrants, it has extended aid to fund residents affected by the Great Depression, and in the 1930s, German-speaking Jewish refugees fleeing Hitlerism. Hebrew Benevolent Loan Association free interest loans also helped with Displaced Persons resettlement after the war in the 1940s and 1950s. Through the 1970s to 1990s aiding Jews from the former Soviet Union became a significant focus. Loan recipients have used the monies to pay to transport furniture and belongings, enable their spouses, parents and children to rejoin them, or help them to continue or complete their education. At other times, funds have secured deposits for visas and paid for travel tickets and supported educational endeavors.


2 Linear Feet (2 manuscript boxes, 1 oversize box)


Organizational papers documenting aspects of the work and history of the Hebrew Benevolent Loan Association originally known as Gemilut Chasidim [Acts of Loving Kindness] and its work in the development of the Buffalo Jewish community through interest free loans.


This collection is arranged in one series as follows:

  1. Administrative Records

Acquisition Information

Barbara Sitrin donated Hebrew Benevolent Loan Association records in 2015. Linda Boxer donated further Hebrew Benevolent Loan Association records in 2015. The papers were arranged in January 2016 and it was deposited at the University Archives, Special Collections by the Jewish Buffalo Archives Project in January 2016. The Jewish Buffalo Archives Project was founded in late 2007 under the auspices of the Bureau of Jewish Education of Greater Buffalo with a seed grant from the Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies. The Archives Project collects mainly 20th century documentation relating to the diverse histories, religious traditions and cultures of Jewish communities within the Greater Buffalo area of Western New York, encompassing the geographic areas of Erie and Niagara Counties and partners with the University Archives at the University at Buffalo to make these records accessible. The arrangement and description of the Hebrew Benevolent Loan Association records 1939-2000, (bulk 1939-1954) was made possible by funding obtained through the Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies.

Accruals and Additions

Ongoing accruals are expected to this collection.

Related Materials

Processing Information

Collection was processed by Chana Revell Kotzin in December 2015. EAD finding aid created by Archives Staff, August 2016.


Finding Aid for the Hebrew Benevolent Loan Association Records
Finding aid prepared by Chana Revell Kotzin.
June 2016
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the University Archives Repository

420 Capen Hall
Buffalo New York 14260-1674 US
716-645-3714 (Fax)