Closing out a banner year, Jewish Educational Loan Fund held its 2018 Annual Meeting on Dec. 4 at Le Meridien Atlanta Perimeter. The tone was upbeat to celebrate that 279 students were helped with interest-free loans in the five-state region of Florida, Georgia, Virginia, and North and South Carolina, for the 2018-19 academic year.
“In my role, I really see it all, and it makes me happy that we have loaned so much money,” JELF COO Cathy Miller said during the reception.
“These new fundraising milestones empower students, which is what it’s really all about,” added Josh Schaier, JELF director of development.
Heading up the program, JELF CEO Jenna Shulman laid out the passion behind the mission. “Since 1997, the cost to attend a state university is up 334 percent compared to inflation, which is only up 51 percent. … 94 percent of today’s undergraduates are borrowing. That figure was 45 percent in 1993.
“JELF represents the good in the world, focusing on core Jewish values of tzedakah, human dignity, education and independence over its 55 years. Dreaming big means lending even more than the $1,011,266 that we provided to 279 students in 2018 in our region.”
Shulman and Rabbi Laurence Rosenthal of Ahavath Achim Synagogue led Chanukah blessings. Then the rabbi, in a short text study, related that his wife, Brooke, received an interest-free loan from a Hebrew Free Loan organization on the west coast to pursue her MBA with little family support.
JELF President Stan Lowenstein presented two newly named awards. The first, The Garber Family Honor Roll Award, is named for Drs. Stephen and Marianne Garber, both JELF past presidents and son and daughter-in- law of Al Garber. In a video of the couple, Marianne joked that she “married into JELF and remains dedicated to paying it forward.”
Stephen Garber said his biggest contribution to JELF was Marianne, who served two separate terms at its helm. Marianne then presented the Garber award to Don Sklar, an accountant and immediate past treasurer of JELF. Sklar was recognized for his “smart, amicable and calm financial decisions.”
Eydie Koonin, executive board member of JELF, was also featured in a video alongside her husband, Steve, as she accepted the Steve and Eydie Koonin Family Service Award. Koonin recalled her participation in JELF’s loan review process for which students’ needs are assessed as far away as South Florida. Eydie said that upon learning she would be this year’s award recipient, she was truly speechless. Steve went on to explain that the need for grants and loans for higher education is increasing. “It is no longer enough to simply give now; we must leave money in our wills and estates. This money has to recycle itself so that others can get ahead through education. I love both JELF’s mission as well as the multiplying effect.”
President Stan Lowenstein motivated the crowd by relaying a summary: “All We Have Accomplished.” He said, “I’m giddy with JELF’s success, … $6,318,000 is currently loaned out to students, which recycles at a 99 percent rate, … but even with as much as we are accomplishing, the numbers still fall short. Over the last five years, the number of students served is up 39 percent while the need is up 50 percent. … While we have also had a 165 percent increase in fundraising, we still fall short of meeting our need 100 percent.” Lowenstein ended with a slide that quoted Malcolm X, “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” He said that JELF has to keep deciding where it goes from here and what lies ahead.
Attorney Walter Jospin, originally from Savannah, wrapped up the evening with a short and poignant story about growing up in a “Savannah-rich” Jewish family – until everything crumbled. “After our family’s financial decline, my father worked to pull together every resource to allow me to attend the University of Pennsylvania, but we still did not have enough – which is where JELF came in to make up the shortfall. Without JELF, my education at Penn would not have been possible …. thank you JELF, for your important role in my life.”