Friday, December 30, 2005

Kollel crisis?

The Kollel system has unquestionably, largely built American Yiddishkeit.

Is it- in its current form- kaput?

Is the opportunity for- a majority of newlyweds affording a number of years of immersion in the yeshiva world, been fatally hit by the financial crunch?

Has insurance, housing, large families, marrying off children (especially daughters), etc., made the privilege of kollel drastically less feasible for today's yungerman?

Take a look at (a part of) the metamorphosis going on in Eretz Yisroel:


Yisrael Reinhold describes himself as a modern Lithuanian (non-hassidic Orthodox). He works in student registration and public relations at the Or Hadash school in the Krayot suburbs of Haifa, helps raise his three small children, tries to study Gemara or Torah for an hour or two in the evening, volunteers with Magen David Adom once every week or two and does reserve duty following an abridged military service.
Reinhold, 30, says he has many friends from yeshiva with similar lifestyles. Some are studying a profession, like a close friend who is in law school and wants to be a lawyer.
"There is a major development in recent years of going out to work, of Phase B military service [shortened service for men - R.S.] and of doing reserve duty. There are more workplaces that are suitable for our public. The most important thing is to combine work with Torah studies," Reinhold says. He does not attribute the change to the child allowance cutbacks that began two and a half years ago. "Needs keep growing, and there is more interest in earning an honest living," he says.

Opinion is split over the extent to which the cutbacks forced avrechim (married yeshiva students) to abandon the world of Torah altogether or partially. It is clear that the process of participating in professional studies and the workforce began more than a decade ago and developed gradually, but the cutbacks in allowances and other stipends from the state will speed up the process in coming years. The cutbacks are slated to continue until 2009, reducing child allowances by tens of percentage points.
In 2003, more than 35 percent of ultra-Orthodox men said they worked, according to Central Bureau of Statistics data. Surprisingly, the rate of working women was not much higher - 39 percent. Some 5.6 percent of men and women reported they were seeking jobs, which brought the rate of participation in the workforce to nearly 41 percent among men and 45 percent among women.
Workforce participation rates among secular and traditional Israelis are 77 percent for men and 69 percent for women..
There is a lot of prejudice and fears - the sector is not a uniform group. There are differences between the courts [of various rabbis] regarding openness to work," says a senior official from the American Jewish Joint Distribution Company, which began developing training programs for Haredim a decade ago. About a quarter of the students in these courses are Chabad, Gur and Belz Hassidim. Some 17 percent belong to the Lithuanian stream, and the rest are Sephardic or self-described "national" Haredim."
Hassidim are less choosy. It's easier to find a Hassidic plumber than a Lithuanian plumber," jokes Efraim Reich, owner of ImageStore, which provides a digital documenting service that employs hundreds of Haredi women in Modi'in Illit, thanks to an incentive of NIS 1,000 per month, per worker, courtesy of the Industry, Trade and Employment Ministry.
Reich says that those who truly prefers to study do so regardless of financial plight. "But there is tremendous demand for work. It's a quiet revolution. The men are slowly, slowly going out to work after spending a few months in the army. There's no talk of this in the media, but there are quite a few. Our parents could still support the children, help with marriages. The new generation won't be able to, so there's no choice," he says.
posted by Yeshiva Orthodoxy
at 10:52 AM


Blogger joel rich said...

Interesting article - a few choice quotes

The Ultra Orthodox / The quiet revolution - covert vocational training
By Yair Ettinger
"The shift in ultra-Orthodox society is still minimal," says Jacob Lupo, an expert in the study of ultra-Orthodox society. "There is a desire for change, but it's like a car driving on the highway. It is signaling, but there are certain things preventing it from taking the interchange."
Strange analogy

The turning point was in 1996, Lupo says. This was when leading rabbis ruled that ultra-Orthodox men could acquire a profession. Soon various institutions started operating for this purpose.
Hmmmm- what was the heter that overturned this age old ban:-)

Dr. Rivi Schallinger, who lectures in Or Yehuda to women only, says the college's policy prefers ultra-Orthodox. In the first classes there were many nationalist-religious and nationalist-ultra-Orthodox students who wanted to study in separate classes for men and women, but the number of ultra-Orthodox is increasing. This year the class is made up entirely of ultra-Orthodox, while those wearing knitted skullcaps are referred to the Kiryat Ono campus.

Good to see someone still upholds the pre-1960's separate but equal US civil rights standards :-)
Joel rich

5:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How embarassing that the poorest of the poor in Israel are the chareidim. These people need to stop drinking coffee in "kollel," and start working.

8:26 AM  
Blogger Just Yidding said...

There is nothing better than someone who belongs in Kollel actually sitting and learning there; There is nothing worse than someone who Does NOT belong in Kollel that is sitting and drinking coffee there, and ruining the atmosphere for the true Kollel Avreichim.

10:16 AM  
Anonymous Fox said...

There is also quiet movement in this direction in the U.S., too. A few years ago, it was reported (I remember short paragraphs in the Yated and Hamodia, but I can't provide a full reference) that a small group of roshei yeshiva and other nationally-known leaders had met to discuss the "kollel situation." Their conclusion was precisely that of JY, above: for men who belong in kollel, it is a great benefit to them and to the klal. For those who do not belong, there should be no stigma in working and being kovea itim.

One of the considerations mentioned was that previous gedolim who encouraged full-time, long-term kollel learning at virtually all costs were responding to the need to rebuild the klal following the European Churban. Boruch Hashem, their efforts paid off -- while there is always more to be done, we now have communities around the world where both the size and observance level is far higher than ever thought possible.

The roshei yeshiva went to on say that these changes in the needs of the klal mean that blanket solutions applied to a previous generation should not necessarily be applied automatically to current situations. They also specifically mentioned that while a short post-marriage stint in kollel is tremendously beneficial to starting off a family and should be encouraged, young women should receive guidance in ascertaining whether they are truly cut out for long-term kollel life in order to avoid disappointment and conflict.

I was actually pretty impressed at the time; the recommendations seemed to reflect the tremendous esteem in which long-term kollel study should be held while also underscoring the reality that not everyone is cut out for it. My children are still relatively young, so I don't know if attitudes in the shidduch business have changed at all. However, I do notice far, far more young men going straight to work or only learning for a couple of years than when I married.

11:01 AM  
Blogger Harry Maryles said...

There seems to be a lot of virtual ink being spilled in various Torah oriented blogs on this issue. It is one that is nibbling away at the foundation of our existence as a Torah nation I have been concerend for many years that the very thing that defines us (The Torah World)... Limud HaTorah... may undermine us if not adjusted to reflect the realities of life. I have posted my own overview on my blog, Emes Ve-Emunah, here is an exceprt:

I spoke to a young man who spent 8 years in a Kollel. He told me that he had heard about my views and wanted me to know that he was a victim of precisely the kind of pressure I described above. His wife had wanted him to leave the Kollel he was in after six years. He was feeling the financial pressure to leave and find a job. He was told two years in a row that he should stay and not worry about Parnassa... to have Bitachon. HaShem would answer his needs. Finally after two years of this he went to his Rosh Kollel and basically told him that his marriage was on the line and he was finally given permission to go and find a job.

This same person also explained to me why there is so little dissention amongst the ranks of Roshei Kollel. The consequences are indeed severe. When a Rosh Kollel starts speaking his mind on issues and it conflicts with the accepted norm amongst Charedim, they are not merely bad mouthed or scorned. They are completely and immediately shut down. It ends their career as Roshei Kollel.

How sad is that!

11:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The kollel system has unquestionably, to a very large degree, built American Yiddishkeit".

A grandiose claim simply not true. If this is a reference to kiruv, sure, its done some good, in pockets throughout the country, but "built American Yiddishkeit"? No. Many, many others have preceded the kollel system, and done far more, with far less resources by the way.

A much stronger argument can be made that the kollel system is taking money away from elementary, high school chinuch, where the impact would be greater.

11:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The Kollel system has unquestionably, largely built American Yiddishkeit."

I guess this is your response to my previous post, and here is my answer:

No you definitely haven't.

Why say things that aren't true. This is not emes. "Largely" means 50% or more. Do you think you've done that? Or anything close to it? No.

All kinds of "movements" preceded you. T'shuva movements. Young Israel movements. Day school movements. Yeshiva University. Chabad. And how about "just" a lot of Jewish families learning Torah, attending shul, and performing mitzvos.

I repeat, you've done some good. But say the emes. This show-off mentality in the spiritual realm is the same attitude that gets you in trouble in the gashmius realm, example: "HOME".

I'll be impressed if you post this.

11:52 AM  
Anonymous Fox said...

In reference to Anon's post above, I'd agree that it's always foolhardy to make claims without any caveats. There are always exceptions that can be pointed out.

However, looking back at the history of Yiddishkeit in the U.S., you find considerable evidence that communal leaders, even in the immediate post-WWII years, were considerably less knowledgeable than our "average" leaders today. Please note that this comment is said with no disrespect intended to either the tremendous gedolim of that era nor to the rabbonim and teachers of that time who often faced an uphill battle to plant seeds of Yiddishkeit on American soil.

Nevertheless, you find today that "average" people are simply more knowledgeable -- and I'm not talking about chumras, but about uncontroversial halacha. Why is this? Attend even a small Sholom Zocher in an "out-of-town" community -- chances are most of the men around the table will each have between one and ten years of serious, full-time adult learning.

This, we may surmise, represents precisely the goal of the gedolim who insisted on building the kollel system. Communities populated with learned balabatim still need money for chinuch, but everyone agrees that chinuch is necessary -- not necessarily the case in post-WWII America.

In many respects, Jewish life is a conundrum: on one hand, our individual lives are very short in the scope of Jewish history, and it's often impossible to see that own situations are a miniscule part of a larger link. On the other hand, we're all obligated to make every action and decision count.

Extended kollel study is characteristic of this conundrum. Encouraging young couples to devote themselves to kollel study was undoubtedly instrumental in raising the level of Torah knowledge and practice in the U.S. Now our leaders have to determine whether we still need only the "cement layers" of Yiddishkeit or whether we are ready for "carpenters" and "plumbers" in the house we are building.

12:44 PM  
Anonymous Jothar Hillpeople said...

Check out Jonathan rosenblum's article on the same topic at

1:56 PM  
Blogger Harry Maryles said...

"The kollel system has unquestionably, to a very large degree, built American Yiddishkeit".

I would think you are a bit off on that remark. If anything has built American Yiddishkeit it has been the day school movement. Kollel has added to it but even there, I would put Yeshivos and Beis Yaakovs ahead of Kollel.

10:57 AM  

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