Audio: Prof. Eliezer Jaffe Shares 50 Years of Social Welfare in Israel

The Father of Israeli Social Work - Professor Eliezer Jaffe shares 50 years of social welfare in Israel.
1/4/2013, 3:31 PM

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Eliezer Jaffe, a native of Cleveland Ohio, first came to Israel in 1957, where he volunteered at the Maabarot (transit camps for new immigrants). It was in these muddy, primitive tent cities where he decided that in order to help this small but bustling country, he needed to return with a doctoral degree.

This he did. Making Aliyah in 1950 with a PhD. in social work, Professor Jaffe was one of the founders of the very first Department of Social Work in Israel, at Jerusalem's Hebrew University. Other universities followed suit, and based their own social work programs on the one Dr. Jaffe began at Hebrew U.

Specializing in social services for children, Professor Jaffe saw a need for research into inter-country adoptions, which were not possible because of government policies of the time. He and his wife spent a sabbatical year travelling to 15 countries and gleaning as much information as they could on the subject, before returning to Israel and re-writing the Israeli adoption laws.

Professor Jaffe saw a need for interest-free assistance for short-term needs. Based on the teachings of the Rambam, in which the highest level of charity is one which provides the needy with a means to become self-supportive, Professor Jaffe founded the Israel Free Loan Association in 1990. This organization has helped tens of thousands of people over the years, awarding loans totalling more than $170 million. What is astonishing is the 99% return rate, a factor which Professor Jaffe attributes to the respect awarded to each recipient. "People who need the loans are no better or worse than any of us. It can happen to any one of us overnight." Maintaining the dignity of those in need is one of the cornerstones of Professor Jaffe's work ethic and philosophy of life.

Tune in to be inspired by Professor Eliezer Jaffe, winner of many awards and writer of more than 14 books including "Giving Wisely" and "Letters to Yitz," who believes that anyone can make a difference, and that giving is just a way of paying off our interest on this gift we call "life."

Judy Simon is the host of the show Life Lessons and the mother of six children. After almost 20 years of teaching English and special education, Judy now serves as the Beit El Tourism Coordinator, and organizes tours of the site of Jacob's Dream in Beit El. Check out Beit El's website: and "like" the Beit El Heritage Center Facebook page: To "like" the Hebrew page: Life Lessons explores fascinating people from all walks of life and follows their stories of lessons learned along the way. The Life Lessons podcast airs every Thursday from 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Israel time on Israel National Radio.
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