The Asper Helping Hand Initiative
In June 2003, motivated by a desire to reduce poverty in the Jewish community of Winnipeg, as articulated in Moses Maimonides’ belief that a “loan is better than charity, for it enables one to help oneself”, Israel Asper and his son-in-law Michael Paterson, then Board President of Jewish Child and Family Service (JCFS), announced the creation of The Asper Helping Hand Initiative (click here to download brochure). With support from The Asper Foundation, JCFS offers this service to members of the Jewish community in Manitoba who are experiencing temporary hardship and are in need of financial assistance. The Asper Helping Hand Initiative is similar to other Hebrew Free Loan Societies that have existed for over 100 years (and continue to exist) in many communities around the world. Hebrew Free Loan Societies operated in Winnipeg until approximately the last decade. Interest-free loans are available to people at every stage of life.
The program aids individuals and families to become or remain self-supporting and valued members of the community through self respect and dignity. A borrower must be a Jewish resident of Manitoba and able to demonstrate both a need for the loan as well as the ability to repay the loan. There are ten different loan categories – student loans, loans for special medical needs, vocational training loans, first-time home buyer’s loans, small debt consolidation loans, car loans, small business loans, emergency loans to obtain basic needs, immigration loans to sponsor family members who wish to immigrate to Canada and life cycle loans to assist in celebrating events such as weddings or bat/bar mitzvahs. The Asper Helping Hand Initiative is administered by the Jewish Child and Family Service. As of May 2020, The Asper Helping Hand Initiative has advanced 194 loans totaling $770,000.
David Asper, Chair of The Asper Helping Hand Initiative Steering Committee commented, “The Asper Foundation and my wife and I support this program because it allows people the opportunity to help themselves. The Asper Helping Hand Initiative is different in that it assists people in becoming self-sufficient and independent.” In addition to The Asper Foundation, ongoing funding for this program is supported generously by the David and Ruth Asper Fund at the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba. The Jewish Foundation of Manitoba generously contributed to the launch of this initiative.
The Tzedakah Fund: The Asper Foundation and The Jewish Foundation of Manitoba contribute equally to the Tzedakah Fund. The fund provides grants to members of the Jewish community in Manitoba who are in special circumstances. Financial aid is provided on an emergency basis for sustenance of basic needs such as food, shelter, clothing, health or secondary needs like transportation, education or vocation, without which the recipient’s livelihood, family or other dependents would suffer. The Asper Helping Hand Initiative and the Tzedakah Fund differ in the scope of needs that each addresses. The Tzedakah Fund is also administered by Jewish Child and Family Service.