Institution Lends on Faith

Ukrainian immigrant Ella Miramova had a dream — to become a Beverly Hills dressmaker — and the only place that would give her the money to make it a reality was the Jewish Free Loan Association (search), a lending institution that has charged the same interest rate for 100 years — zero percent.

To get a loan you must be needy, or unbankable. If you qualify, you can get up to $20,000 for food, student loans, starting a business or whatever you want. And you do not need to be Jewish — 40 percent of their loans go to non-Jews.

In the regular banking world, the default rate is 15 percent. At Jewish Free Loan, it's almost zero.

"If you're late by 10 or 15 days we make an official phone call to you and we remind you 'have you forgotten about the free loan,'" said Mark Meltzer, executive director of Jewish Free Loan.

The institution keeps its client list confidential, but they say it would read like a who's who of L.A. businesses, and because they make no money on the loans, they're essentially banking on their clients' success. 

"The borrower who receives the money today and has a tremendous amount of success in future years, hopefully will support this agency for those who will require help in the future," Meltzer said.

Click on the video box at the top of this story to watch a report by FOX News' Trace Gallagher.