For the Perlman family, helping others to help themselves is a tradition that has endured for three generations.
It started when Leon Entin, grandfather of Jeffrey Perlman of Princeton, helped resuscitate the Hebrew Free Loan Society of Trenton. The society began around the turn of the 20th century, providing financial aid for Jewish immigrants from Europe. They would borrow money interest-free and pay it back at a dollar a week.
For many years after the immigration era, the loan society lay dormant. Then, in the late 1970s, Entin involved Jeffrey’s father, Richard, in a project to bring it back to life.
“He told me he had a savings account with $18,000 in it from the Trenton Hebrew Free Loan Society,” said Richard Perlman, who lives in Skillman, in a Feb. 6 phone interview. “Then somewhere around 1980, while the money was still sitting around gathering dust, we decided to turn it over to the Jewish Community Foundation of Princeton Mercer Bucks.”
In the late 1990s, he said, “the JCF developed an agreement with Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County to become the administrator of the funds and to form a board for the Hebrew Free Loan Society with representation from the Jewish Federation of PMB, the Jewish Community Foundation of PMB, and JFCS.”
In recent years the society, with JFCS acting as administrator, has made an average of eight to 10 loans a year to people in the Princeton Mercer Bucks Jewish community. It lends up to $3,000 for an individual and $6,000 for a couple, and expects the money to be repaid over the course of three years.
“We make interest-free loans to people who need assistance with medical bills or vital car or home repairs. It is about keeping families stable,” said Linda Meisel, executive director of the Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County.
“It gives people in times of need the ability to get through whatever crisis they might be in at the time. It keeps them from drowning,” said Lara Wellerstein, director of community programs at the JFCS.
On March 8, JFCS will salute the Hebrew Free Loan Society as Community Honoree and the Borden Perlman Salisbury & Kelly insurance agency as Corporate Honoree at its “Starry Night Gala Dinner Dance.”
Jeffrey Perlman is founder and managing director of Borden Perlman; Richard is a consultant to the firm and founder of Perlman Insurance Agency, its predecessor.
The celebration will be held at the Westin Princeton in Forrestal Village in Princeton.
“I think that the Jewish Family and Children’s Service fills a void in the social service net that is not being filled by other social service organizations,” said Jeffrey Perlman in a Feb. 6 phone interview. “It is very creative in what it decides to tackle. Their at-home program helps people who need some assistance in their daily living — whether it is changing a light bulb or repairing a garage door. They have put together a team of contractors and service people that helps someone in need.”
Jeffrey Perlman credits his father, who is a past president of the Greenwood House nursing and rehabilitation home in Ewing and a former campaign chair at Jewish Federation of Princeton Mercer Bucks, for “setting the tone” for his own involvement. “It is part of my heritage,” said Jeffrey.
So, too, was the charitable work of other relatives.
“My grandmother Sadie Entin was a leader in Trenton Hadassah. She was very involved in raising money for Israel Bonds and was a leader in resettling Jewish immigrants in the Trenton area. My great uncle, George Perlman, left his $4 million fortune to Greenwood House. It is still the largest single gift to a Jewish charity in the Trenton-Princeton area,” he said.
“They showed me that tzedaka was part of who we are.”