Gemach (Hebrew: גמח, plural, גמחים, "gemachim", an abbreviation for גמילות חסדים, "gemilat chasadim", "acts of kindness") is a Jewish free-loan society which subscribes to both the positive Torah commandment of lending money and the Torah prohibition against charging interest on a loan. Unlike bank loans, gemach loans are interest-free, and are often set up with easy repayment terms.

Gemachs operate in most Jewish communities. The traditional gemach concept — that of a money-lending fund — extends loans on a short- or long-term basis for any need, including emergency loans, medical expenses, wedding expenses, etc. However, many people have expanded the concept to include free loans of household items, clothing, books, equipment, services and advice.

Gemachs may be operated both on a communal basis (such as by treasurers of community funds) and an internal basis (such as by businesses, organizations, schools and families). The ideal of contributing to or forming one's own gemach was popularized by Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan (the Chofetz Chaim), who addressed many halachic questions about the practice and lauded its spiritual benefits in his landmark book, "Ahavat Chesed" ("Loving Kindness").

Biblical source

Money gemachs fulfill the Torah imperative, "You shall lend money to my people" (Exodus 22:24) as well as the Torah injunction, "You shall not give him your money for interest, nor may you give him your food for increase" (Leviticus 25:37).

Gemachs which provide other services, such as clothing, books and equipment, fall under the general Torah commandment to do kindness, "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Leviticus 19:18) [] .

Types of loans

Gemachs are best-known for lending money on a short- or long-term basis.

The size of the loan will depend on the lender's resources. A home-based gemach might offer loans of $100 and up, while a wedding gemach may extend a loan of several thousand dollars. Typically, gemachs also offer favorable repayment terms, enabling borrowers to repay the loan over a long period of time, in keeping with the imperative of "doing kindness." One Jerusalem family offers loans of $750 with repayment of $150 per month. A wedding gemach offers a $3000 loan with repayment of $100 per month.

While poor families and individuals in debt are frequent users of gemachs, borrowers need not be poor. Money gemachs also cater to students, workers, or any individual in need of a loan. Internal money gemachs are common fixtures in yeshivas, synagogues, and workplaces, among others.

The gemach concept has expanded to include free loans of household items, clothing, books, equipment, services and advice. Following is a sampling of gemach services found in the Jerusalem telephone directory of 2002:

Low chairs and other necessities for mourning; food for simchas; food for the needy; food for hospital visitors; moving boxes; used clothes; English and American stamps; Dead Sea mud; sewing patterns; hosting guests; hosting guests near hospitals; transporting invalids; wedding needs; health food and vitamins; tallits; telephone cards; cell phones; form letters; burners; tools; banquet dishes; tables and chairs; playpens; fans; loudspeakers; baby paraphernalia; suitcases; mezuzahs; mattresses; partitions; computers; water urns; folding beds; microwaves; haircutting equipment; inhalers; sewing machines; tablecloths; cameras; blankets; projectors; fridges and freezers; toys; glasses; candles; "segulot"; ladders; pots; "sifrei Torah"; books; cribs; film; Shabbat hot plates; Shabbat candlesticks; furniture; vacuum cleaners; work tools and more [] .

The Neve Yaakov telephone directory currently includes gemach listings for a plumber and a guitarist who offer free advice by telephone.


To ensure repayment of a money loan, gemachs will typically ask the borrower to provide two guarantors as co-signers on the loan. (In halakha this is known as "areivut".) Should the borrower fail to repay on time, the gemach owner can turn to these co-signers and demand repayment, a claim which will be upheld in a "beit din" (Jewish rabbinical court).

Laws also pertain to the person who borrows clothing, equipment, or other items from a gemach. Goods that are damaged must be replaced or reimbursed. Although a Jew should lend to those in need, he is not obligated to continue to lend to someone who consistently loses things or returns them damaged.Fact|date=September 2008

Famous gemachs

* Yad Sarah, a volunteer organization which provides more than 244,000 loans of medical and rehabilitative home-care equipment each year [] , started as a gemach in the home of Rabbi Uri Lupolianski. Today mayor of Jerusalem, Lupolianski in the early 1970s was a high school teacher with a growing family. One of his children needed a vaporizer during the winter, which his wife managed to borrow. Discovering that such items were hard to obtain, Lupolianski decided to start his own gemach by buying a few vaporizers to lend to others. People who heard about his gemach began dropping off other items which are only used for a short time, such as crutches, walkers and wheelchairs. With seed money from his father, Lupolianski expanded his gemach into a nationwide, non-profit lending organization [] .

ee also

*613 mitzvot
*Israel Free Loan Association

External links

* [ Hebrew Free Loan Society]
* [ International Association of Hebrew Free Loans]
* [ "A Lover of Kindness in Our Times" by Yonasan Rosenblum]
* [ "Something Borrowed" by Jessica George Firger]
* [ "Lending a Helping Hand" by American Jewish Historical Society]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Gemach — Gemāch, er, este, adj, et adv. 1. * Eigentlich, weich, sanft, dem Gefühle nach; welche im Deutschen längst veraltete Bedeutung noch das Schwed. mjuk, das Isländ, mjukr, das Engl. meek, und das Wallisische mwyth, haben. 2 Figürlich, langsam,… …   Grammatisch-kritisches Wörterbuch der Hochdeutschen Mundart

  • Gemach — steht für: private Rückzugsräumlichkeiten (von ‚gemächlich‘), siehe Zimmer #Gemach ‚Verleih‘ (aus dem Hebräischen), eine Aufgabe der jüdischen Gemeindeordnung, siehe Kehillah Siehe auch:  Wiktionary: Gemach – Bedeutungserklärungen,… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Gemach — Gemach: Das Substantiv mhd. gemach, ahd. gimah ist eine Bildung zu dem unter ↑ machen behandelten Verb. Es bedeutete zunächst »Bequemlichkeit«, vgl. »gemach«, das ursprünglich »passend, geeignet, bequem« bedeutete. Diese Bedeutung ist noch… …   Das Herkunftswörterbuch

  • gemach — Adv erw. obs. (8. Jh.), mhd. gemach, ahd. gimah, as. gimak Stammwort. Führt mit anord. makr, ae. gemæc auf g. * maki passend, bequem , einem Adjektiv der Möglichkeit zu machen, also was zu machen ist, was gemacht werden kann . Heute ist die… …   Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen sprache

  • Gemach — Sn erw. obs. (9. Jh.), mhd. gemach, ahd. gimah der passende, bequeme (Ort) Stammwort. Substantivierung von gemach. Die Ausgangsbedeutung ist noch stärker bemerkbar in Ungemach. deutsch s. machen …   Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen sprache

  • Gemach — gemach:⇨langsam(1) Gemach→Zimmer …   Das Wörterbuch der Synonyme

  • gemach — gemach: Das Wort, das heute nur noch als Adverb verwendet wird, ist eine Adjektivbildung zu dem unter ↑ machen behandelten Verb und bedeutete ursprünglich »passend, geeignet, bequem«. Diese Bedeutung hat noch ahd. gimah, während mhd. gemach… …   Das Herkunftswörterbuch

  • Gemach — Gemach, 1) jeder abgeschlossene Raum in einem Gebäude, daher so v.w. Zimmer, Kammer, Saal etc.; 2) (Seew.), der Abtritt für die Mannschaft sowohl als für die Offiziere an Bord; der Metallkanal, der in die See führt, heißt die Gemachpfeife …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Gemach — Gemach, bewohnbarer Raum, welcher den Begriff von Gemächlichkeit, d.i. Komfort, in sich schließt …   Lexikon der gesamten Technik

  • gemach — gemach:⇨langsam(1) gemachgeruhsam,gemächlich,langsam,bedächtig,mitgeringerGeschwindigkeit,schleppend …   Das Wörterbuch der Synonyme

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