“In 1950, six Jewish families met in Miami to form a Hebrew Free Loan Society. These founders collected $27 to launch what was to become the “Gemilus Chesed – Greater Miami Hebrew Free Loan Society.” Many years later, Joseph Nevel, the son of one of these original founders, became the President of the HFLA of South Florida. Joe was a businessman and community leader committed to helping those less fortunate. Realizing the great mitzvah of interest-free lending, Joe donated office space and secretarial help to continue the work of the organization. He continued the mission almost single-handedly, and ensured the future of the Hebrew Free Loan of South Florida. Joe believed in the goodness of all people and in lending a helping hand. He had a heart of gold and always greeted people with a smile, a hug and a kiss. He was a man of honor, trust, integrity and many talents. Joe was an inspiration to those fortunate enough to have been touched by his life.”

26 Annual Gemilut Chased Award
International Association of Hebrew Free Loans

Joseph Nevel was my Father. Today, I read with sadness about people around the country who faced with desperate economic situations resorted to robbing and stealing money to make ends meet. All of the first time criminals profiled in this story were caught and have ended up in jail. Family and friends came to their defense pleading for leniency claiming their acts were moments of insanity caused by money problems and stress.

My question is…Where were all these supposed caring family members and friends when the person was facing problems huge enough to push him or her over the edge? If a person was facing bankruptcy or another emotionally debilitating crisis, wouldn’t someone …anyone notice and want to help?

I think of what my father would do if he was alive today and knew that someone he cared about needed a helping hand. I can’t imagine him not reaching out to offer support in any way he could.

We live in a country that respects the rich and successful but forgets them quickly if they fall off their pedestal. We are a high tech society but we haven’t come up with a button to push to make things better when we’re falling down a hole and just about to hit bottom. We live in a world that values things more than people.

Maybe we need a throwback to the old days, when six caring individuals (0ne of them my beloved “zaydee” grandfather) collected $27 to help a stranger.

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