Israel Loan Association Scrambles to Help Rehabilitate Economy where Government Failed

For Hashem your God will bless you as He has promised you: you will extend loans to many nations, but require none yourself; you will dominate many nations, but they will not dominate you. Deuteronomy 15:6 (The Israel Bible™)

While unemployment soars and the global economic shutdown wreaks havoc on the livelihoods of millions of Israelis, the Ogen Group announced today it has raised thirty million dollars to provide emergency survival loans and financial mentoring to small businesses, non-profits and unemployed and furloughed workers.

Ogen, established in 1990 as the Israel Free Loan Association, now stands to double its daily lending activity, injecting life-changing capital where it is needed most. The new funding will also streamline operations and deliver all loans within 7 business days, lending without guarantors for the first time in Ogen’s 30-year history.

Ogen is now embarking on a campaign to raise an additional $70 million to meet the growing credit needs of individuals, small businesses and non-profits. While recent donations take Ogen’s total lending capital to around $100 million, this figure still denotes less than 0.5% of Israel’s credit market. Ogen can currently finance just five thousand loans per year – a number that barely scratches the surface of the need for affordable credit in the wake of COVID-19.

More than one million workers have registered as unemployed or on unpaid leave in Israel since the pandemic began, some 54 percent of whom are self-employed and ineligible for unemployment benefits. More than 20,000 small businesses have been turned away for government-backed loans.

The financial fallout has pushed Israel’s non-profit sector to breaking point also. Twenty-five percent of Israeli non-profits, on which hundreds of thousands of Israelis depend for daily services in healthcare, welfare, education and more, have ceased operations entirely.

Ogen has already issued a large first wave of emergency loans, distributing $2M in interest-free personal loans, close to $3M to small businesses and more than $3.5M to help non-profit organizations – utilizing almost all Ogen’s available lending funds.

Donors and impact lenders from Israel and abroad have risen to the challenge, contributing $30 million dollars towards life-changing loans, loan guarantees and crisis-era financial coaching.

Most of the new funds Ogen has received come from one anonymous Israeli donor who contributed $20 million in a deep show of social and civic responsibility for those most affected by the financial downturn. Among the many additional philanthropists and organizations worldwide that made significant contributions also were Trudy and Bob Gottesman, the Russell Berrie Foundation, the Max & Marjorie Fisher Foundation, the Jewish Agency for Israel, the Max Barney Foundation from the UK, Jewish Communal Fund (JCF), PEF Israel Endowment Funds, the UJA Federation of New York, Migdal Group and Boaz Raam alongside a number of additional anonymous contributors.

Ogen’s lending now comes hand-in-hand with expert financial mentoring and guidance, ensuring loans go out to the right people that will have the greatest chance to rebuild through “Ogen La’Bayit” and Keren-Shemesh, which have received support from donors including Google.org and Israel’s National Insurance Institute (Bituach Leumi).

“Since the founding of Ogen three-decades ago by Prof. Eliezer Jaffe z”l, there has never been a greater need for affordable, accessible credit. Thanks to the tremendous generosity of our supporters, Ogen will now be able to double the daily amount of loans we issue. This is still far from what is needed at this unprecedented time and we continue to appeal to those who want to impact the future of Israel to support our life-changing work by helping us provide life-changing loans to those in need.” said Sagi Balasha, CEO of the Ogen Group.