IFLA mourns the loss of Founder Prof. Eliezer Jaffe
Baruch Dayan Haemet
IFLA mourns the passing of its founder and president, Prof. Eliezer David Jaffe, at the age of 84. Professor Jaffe’s loss is mourned by his two surviving siblings, four children, seventeen grandchildren and one great grandchild; IFLA Board of Directors, staff and volunteers, as well as tens of thousands of Israeli families that received aid from his charitable endeavors.
Twenty-seven years ago Professor Jaffe founded IFLA and grew it to become the largest Jewish interest-free loan institute in the world. Just a few months ago, Professor Jaffe saw IFLA reach a milestone of one-billion shekels distributed in interest-free loans, empowering over 58,000 families and small businesses to overcome financial hardship. Professor Jaffe continued to be an active board member in recent years and served as the President of IFLA’s Board up until his death.
Professor Jaffe made Aliyah (immigrated) to Israel in 1960. He was one of the pioneers of the field of social work in Israel and was one of the founders of Hebrew University’s School of Social Work, the first university level program for social work in Israel. Many of his books and publications were focused on philanthropy, the non-profit world and charity management. His research coupled with the sudden needs of waves of Olim (immigrants), led him to establish IFLA in 1990. The idea of an interest-free loan society was inspired largely by Jewish values. But his vision and ingenuity in forming the organization is what led to its uniquely effective model, stressing the re-usability of funds while maintaining low overhead. As a result IFLA has raised a $50 million fund that has distributed over $260 million in loans, a legacy that will continuously be perpetuated in his name.
Throughout his life Professor Jaffe received countless awards and honors recognizing his contributions to Israeli society, some of which are among the highest honors in the country including: Yakir Yerushalayim Distinguished Citizen of Jerusalem award, Speaker of the Knesset Prize, President of Israel’s Citation for Outstanding Volunteer Activity, Sderot Conference award for contribution to Israeli society. Most recently he was awarded the 2017 Sylvan Adams Nefesh B’Nefesh Bonei Tzion Lifetime Achievement Award which he was set to accept next month at a ceremony at the Knesset.
IFLA Chairman, Ofir Ozeri, Esq. expressed the following when learning Eliezer’s death, “It is hard to speak of Eliezer in the past tense. He was one of those unique people, on the one hand a visionary and on the other hand a man of action, transforming his ideas into an effective model of social impact. He was exceptional in both of those roles. His departure is a great loss to Israeli society, to IFLA and to me personally. Eliezer left us with his vision and wish to aid the Israeli working poor, and we at IFLA are committed to do all we can to continue in his footsteps and go forward in making his dreams a reality. May his memory be a blessing.”
Sagi Balasha, IFLA CEO shared “Eliezer’s departure is a great loss for IFLA. Few visionaries are grounded and capable enough to transform an idea into such a highly effective model. Eliezer was one of those people. Even in his last months he was actively implementing his vision for the future and paving the way for IFLA to grow in new directions, all while keeping a clear focus on his primary goal – helping those in need.”
Born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1933 to a family who was active in the Zionist Hapoel HaMizrachi movement . His family, grocers and textile dealers, immigrated to the United States at the start of the 20th century from Eastern Europe. He went to a local school while also studying in the afternoons at the local “Talmud Torah”. Later he started his studies at the Yeshiva University (YU) in New York, majoring in Psychology and Sociology.
In 1955, with after finishing his studies, Eliezer moved back to Cleveland and receiving a scholarship he started his graduate studies in Sociology. After finishing his Masters, and in his role as the Chairman of the local chapter of the Religious HaShomer (later to be renamed “Beni Akiva”) he decided in 1956 to visit Israel, as he heard that the Jewish Agency and the Hadasah Medical Center were at the time looking for Public Health and Welfare professionals to volunteer at the Ma’abarot (refugee absorption camps). Working under Hadasah’s head of Psychiatry, Eliezer arrived at the Jerusalem Talpiyot Ma’abara and started to work with the Olim, who were living in harsh conditions – in tents and tin houses, with poor sanitation and suffering from extreme weather. After finishing his volunteering he returned to Cleveland fully convinced in the necessity of emigrating to Israel and becoming involved in its future development. However, he planned on this taking place only after he finished his doctorate studies.
After finishing his PhD Eliezer received an invitation for the Hebrew University to come to Israel and take a part in the creation of its new School of Social Work. Eliezer shaped the methodology and statistics curriculum, was the head of the admissions committee, and labord intensively to developed the newly founded school. His research focused primarily on social services to children and families as well as ethnic stereotypes.
While still focusing on his academic career, Eliezer has decided in 1990 to found the Israel Free Loan Association (IFLA), as a non-profit aiding Israel’s working poor to overcome financial hardship. Through Eliezer’s hard work and dedication IFLA grew over the years, reaching only recently a milestone of one-billion shekels given out in over 58,000 interest-free loans.
Professor Jaffe retired in the year 2000, after 40 years in the Hebrew University. Since then he had continued to tirelessly develop IFLA and research the Israeli nonprofit sector and philanthropy. Until his last days he remained active as an Emeritus Professor in the Hebrew University Faculty of Social Work; Co-Chairman of the Center for the Study of Philanthropy at the same university, and the President (as a volunteer) of IFLA.