Joshua & JELF

Joshua+%26+JELF

Eric Boyd

Jewish Educational Loan Foundation helps student continue his education through crisis.

 

The Jewish Educational Relief Foundation (JELF) provides interest-free loans to Jewish students in the Southeast.

According to the Department of Education, 70% of students graduate with student debt. JELF’s mission is to alleviate that burden.

“Our mandate is to try and lower the debt burden of as many students as possible, said David Cohen, JELF marketing director. “That way you’re not only helping them go to school but also get a head start in life.”

The money JELF provides comes no-strings-attached without stipulations on how it must be spent.

“We give you the money you need to be a full time student,” Cohen said. “Whether it’s added money for tuition, to put food on the table, pay the bills or commute back and forth.”

JELF also partners with career coaches in Atlanta, so when recipients graduate, they have resources for career guidance and resume help.

The spiritual foundation of JELF bonds them to those they give loans and distinguishes them as a community — not a bank.

Since JELF is non-profit and does not operate off of repaid loans, 100% of the money recipients pay back goes directly to the next student in line.

When Joshua Elbaz needed money for his undergraduate degree, JELF stepped in. When he needed money again to pursue a law degree, JELF stepped in.

When his dad died of COVID-19 in July, JELF stepped in.

Loan officers unofficially tried helping Elbaz with fundraising and the burial of his father, which he appreciated but declined. They didn’t help as employees of JELF but as members of a community that saw an opportunity to do good.

Elbaz’s story is marred with tragedy and resiliency.

He lost his older brother in 2011 due to substance abuse. He lost his other brother in February 2020, and while still grieving, lost his dad in July.

“I’ve been put in a position this past year where pretty much anybody else in my shoes would be drowning in depression, having suicidal thoughts and not really wanting to give a shit about school to be honest with you,” Elbaz said.

Despite having every reason to quit, he won’t.

Elbaz pulls motivation from his drive to become a lawyer — a career that will allow him to help others.

“My older brother struggled with drug addiction and passed away in 2011,” Elbaz said. “He wanted to be an attorney, so it inspired me to help people struggling and give them a second opportunity at life.”

His resiliency, Herculean and admirable as it may be, isn’t enough on its own to overcome the financial burdens of law school. Thankfully, he has JELF.

“It’s a spiritual and emotional connection — it’s not just going to pick up a check,” Elbaz said. “It’s knowing that they’re helping the Jewish community as well as providing that same assistance to others once the loans are paid.”

The lessons his father taught him echo in his head and keep him going when things get hard.

“Once you start something you never give up, and the greatest gift in life is direction,” Elbaz said. If you have those two things, if you work hard and you’re honest, you can’t go wrong in life.”

His dad, an immigrant from a third-world country who arrived in America with nothing, also armed him with a lesson about money.

“Money doesn’t mean anything,” Elbaz said. “It’s not real. Anything in life I do, I don’t do for the money; I do because I want to make an impact in other people’s lives.”