What is Kiva? What is the Jewish Lending Group?
The Jewish Lending Group is a group on Kiva.org. Kiva's mission is to "connect people, through lending, for the sake of alleviating poverty." As of November 2009, Kiva has facilitated over $100 million in loans to third-world business people! They have done this by embracing microfinancing and used the power of the internet to connect those with money to those who want to help themselves.
Kiva works with a large number of microlending institutions who interface with those in need of short term loans (most range from 6-18 months). The microlending institutions around the world, mostly in Africa, Asia and South America, assess the abilities, business plans and financial needs of the third-world entrepreneurs and pass those onto Kiva, who post them on their websites. Lenders can peruse the biographies of the lendees and can choose who they would like to lend to, interest free. The microlending institution does take a small cut (but they also report back on the status of the loan over it's course), but the lender and Kiva do not make money off of any loans (Kiva makes money from lender and corporate donations).
The process obviously isn't 100% secure, but Kiva is very open about loan default rates and holds microlending institutions accountable for their loans - each institution is given a star rating and lenders can decide to lend or not lend based on the institution's past loaning record. (On a personal note, I have, to date made 127 loans and not a single one has defaulted - I have made back every cent, which I have, in turn, loaned out to other third-world business people).
Why the Jewish Lending Group?
We believe this to be the noblest of goals and the Jewish Sage Maimonides agrees (in his work "Eight Levels of Charity):
"The greatest level, is to support a fellow by endowing him with a gift or loan, or entering into a partnership with him, or finding employment for him, in order to strengthen his hand until he need no longer be dependent upon others."
Further, some Jews might feel that keeping their money in the Jewish community only. While we don't feel this to be unreasonable, a great rabbi of our time, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, has said:
"If we donate only to Jewish causes or to individual Jews in need, we may stop seeing everyone as being equally created in God's image and therefore worthy of our help. After all, we are all members of one race, the human race."
In summary, we believe that Kiva.org is one rare case in this world, where you can see the results of your loans or donations directly. We believe it to be a truly noble cause. If you agree with us, please join the Jewish Lending Group! Please also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.