Hebrew Free Loan director ending his long career in Jewish communityby dan pine
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After 35 years as a Jewish community professional, Ed Cushman has decided to catch up on golfing, hiking and traveling. The longtime executive director of the Hebrew Free Loan Association has announced he will retire, effective May 1.
“It’s been quite a long time for me,” said Cushman, a San Rafael resident who served 12 years as executive director of HFLA, which offers zero-interest loans for educational, emergency or business needs. “I started my career after graduate school in 1979. It seemed the appropriate time to venture out in a new direction.”
“[The board] made a great choice,” he said. “I think the world of Cindy. She will do a great job. It’s very satisfying that I leave the agency in better shape.”
HFLA assets have grown from $6.7 million to $12.7 million under Cushman’s stewardship. The agency’s loan balance climbed from $3.6 million to more than $8 million.
HFLA is one of the Bay Area Jewish community’s most venerable institutions, established in San Francisco 116 years ago. It always served the Jewish community, but later this year it will launch a pilot program that will provide interest-free loans to low-income college-bound high school students regardless of religious affiliation. The Non-Sectarian Loan Program will launch with $275,000 of initial capital that was raised specifically for the pilot program (the funds will be kept separate from HFLA's general assests). Cushman is especially proud of this change.
“It’s been important that the agency modernize in many ways,” Cushman said, “including policy, structure and programming. I feel I had an important role in managing that through the years and I’m proud of that.”
Born and raised in San Diego, Cushman credited his parents’ Jewish community activism, as well as a lifelong love of Israel, for inspiring his own career path. He came to the Bay Area to attend San Francisco State University, and then met his future wife, Sharon, when both served as summer counselors at Camp Kee Tov in Berkeley in their early 20s.
Cushman went on to earn a double master’s in social work at USC and Jewish communal service from Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles.
In 1980, he began a seven-year stint with the S.F.-based Jewish Com-munity Federation, working in the Young Adult Division and in the planning and allocations department. In 1987, he moved to Cleveland to accept a campaign chair position and, three years later, he took the reins of the Orange County federation as executive director.
In 1998, he returned to the S.F.-based federation to serve as assistant executive director and campaign director. In 2002, he replaced Irwin Wiener, who had retired as HFLA’s executive director.
Cushman notes the ways in which the landscape of the Bay Area Jewish community has changed since he first arrived in the late 1970s.
“There was a much more cohesive sense of community at that time,” he said. “Because we were smaller, life was simpler, and the federation was clearly the central address. There are many new agencies and innovative programs. Much of it is great and exciting change.”
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