Ultra-Orthodox Jews, the Haredim, try to live lives as separate from the world as possible so they can follow their religious commandments. But the real world keeps impinging on them.
Few people know about the pyramids of haredi (ultra-orthodox) free-loan societies (Gma”chim), charitable funds which do not necessarily rely on generosity of donors (whose numbers have diminished in the past couple of years), but which answer the question: how do haredim pay for the apartments that they buy for their large numbers of children.
To obtain money (tens of thousands of dollars) from a free-loan society, partly as a loan and partly as a grant, the average haredi borrower puts aside a much smaller sum (a few dozen dollars) toward the free-loan society when a child is born or shortly thereafter. In this way, money coming in from young parents immediately goes out to older parents who have to marry off a child. With the haredi population’s impressive growth rate (about 6% per year) the model has worked marvelously as the pyramid has a growing base.