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Friday, April 30, 2010

More of Health and Financial Pressure

The Yated just published a piece called "Preserving the Kollel Revolution." I'd say that publishing the article took a bit of gumption on the part of the newspaper given that it brings up an uncomfortable subject matter. The article covers some history of kollel in America--from revolution to mass movement. The article then looks at the challenges facing kollel, namely "the convergence of massive financial obligations" (i.e. parents have a compounding issue of paying for numerous weddings in a short period of time, long term financial support of the couple, and still support the other mouths they need to feed) and the health issues that are exasperated during this period of time. In the words of the author: "This [convergence of massive financial obligations] can result in terrible stress affecting the parents’ physical and emotional well being. This period of marrying off one’s children generally coincides with the time of life when middle-age health issues set in. The addition of relentless financial burdens may cause parents to literally fall ill, or greatly aggravate pre-existing medical problems." The conclusion of the article is that the culture of consipcuous consumption must be stopped by parents and bnei Torah because it is not the Torah way and that the price of ill health is "simply too steep a price for any child to pay." This conclusion falls under the heading "not a monetary issue; a health issue."

The premises of the article is that "Kollel, as an institution, is vital for everyone - not only for
the elites, the best bochurim, but for every yeshiva student who marries. Kollel provides the basis for a Torah life and it should be encouraged and supported by every means." The solutions to "preserve" kollel was to tone down the lifestyle and fight conspicuous consumption. Two examples the author notes are: 1) the ben Torah should drive a safe car that serves to get him from point A to point B rather than a late model or leased vehicle that raises the expectations of others who pass through the yeshiva/kollel parking lot and 2) reconsider the housing provided for the young couple as fewer families are choosing a one bedroom rented apartment and opting for a house or townhouse in the hundreds of thousands.

Perhaps you need to be driving around in a car that has outlived its prime by a number of years and that announces its comings and goings while budgeting a rather generous income in order to realize just how ludicrous these suggestions sound in terms of "Preserving the Kollel Revolution." Furthermore, the author insults the intelligence of the reader when he asserts the following: "it seems that certain alien concepts have crept into this most hallowed ideal of supporting our young couples. Undoubtedly, in today’s bountiful generation, we cannot expect our youth to conduct lives of Torah mitoch hadechak as done in previous generations. In this day and age, it is unrealistic to expect young couples to abstain from eating fleishigs throughout the week and to subsist on a can of sardines or a small piece of chicken on Shabbos. Nor can we expect very large families to be crammed into one-room hovels without heat, like many who learned Torah mitoch hadechak in previous generations (even here in America)."

Unrealistic!?!?! Puhleeze as the teenagers say. This is a generation suffers from an inflated sense of entitlement and low expectations!


Jared said...

Doesn't bother me what the Kollel people do. I won't give a penny to anyone to support their learning in Kollel. I don't believe in it and they should get real jobs like the rest of us.

Zach Kessin said...

If we wish hard enough then clearly money will magically appear.

AA has a saying: definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results

Zach Kessin said...

Maybe the ben torah should learn to take the bus or walk.

Margaret said...

I always thought living in a one bedroom or studio apartment was what young newlyweds did. My husband and I do. We also structured our lives so we don't need a car; we both take the train to work and walk to the grocery store, doctor's etc.

This is what you do when you are young and starting out.

ProfK said...

What this author and the many others who support the "Kollel Revolution" refuse to see is that this revolution is already on its last legs and is unsustainable for the long run.

1)Yes, the strain of supporting multiple generations is causing and will cause and/or exacerbate health problems of all types in the supporting generation. Because the health problems are sure to be there more money will be needed by parents to provide for their own needs, money which won't be being put away because it is flowing out to support children. Thus these parents, in their older years, will be looking to the community to provide care and services, a community that will not be able to provide such services because it is locked into providing for the Kollel generation.

2)Children, who everyone assumes will take care of their parents in their older years, won't be able to do so because they aren't the ones with the money. In addition, they will be at the point of having to support their own children who are entering kollel at the same time that their parents will need their help.

3)Even assuming that the present generation of parents manages to sustain their children in kollel, how will those children sustain their own children in kollel? The money will have run out with no replacement possibility. Even if those being supported right now should at some point leave kollel and go out to work, they will be so far behind in terms of producing income that they won't be able to cover their own needs, never mind those of their children.

4)There will be no yerusha for future generations. The parents supporting now will have run through their money in their own lifetimes and be facing poverty in their elder years.

I agree that conspicuous consumption can cause monetary problems for families in Klal. But the Kollel Revolution is about planned poverty and the bankrupting of an entire segment of Klal, both monetarily and health-wise. It is organized and planned suicide, and how is that a Torah value or something that we should be running after?

Anonymous said...

How do families who have paid years of tuition for multiple children have anything left over to support adult married children? I don't understand the economics of this segment of the community, particularly when considering how many are not going for the highest paid professions and careers because they aren't getting the college and graduate degrees. Sure, some people have made a lot in real estate or other businesses but I can't believe there are enough of those to support the whole community.

Anonymous said...

The situation gets worse as teh effects of Peak Oil come about soon. The Kollel community is looking at economic collapse. Sad.

Anonymous said...

I think the people who read and comment on this blog and others like it, are not the ones who aspire to their kids sitting in kollel and aren't the ones sending their kids to schools that hold out kollel as the ideal. While its sad and frustrating to see people you care about heading off a cliff (and setting their children on that course) all the venting here probably won't make a difference.

efrex said...

I've given up on getting upset over anything published in the charedi press, and look to it for comic value. If I took it seriously, I'd have to start tearing k'riah every line over their intellectual cowardice and moral hypocrisy (or is it the other way around?)

I actually believe in a version of the kollel system: I know several kollel-niks who are moral exemplars, learned, and dedicated to their learning and their community. They knowingly sacrifice material gain for spiritual advancement, and perform staggering miracles of thrift and economy. Their children are, by all observations, happy and superbly behaved, and I envy them greatly. The idea, however, that a torah life requires kollel is ludicrous and a horribly damning condemnation of our yeshiva system (you mean that you can spend 15+ years in a fully immersive Jewish school system, and you're still not ready to face the world?!)

tesyaa said...

First, I agree with Anon 8:43.

Second, if kollel were restricted to the true iluim, the best & brightest & most dedicated - those couples COULD be supported in a decent material lifestyle - and that might be appropriate. But calling for universal kollel AND high living standards for all is not sustainable. Sort of like requiring universal yeshiva education, large families, with perhaps a dollop of stay-at-home motherhood for nurturing the kids ... oh wait a minute.

Third, the Yated article is clearly defensive, since even in certain right wing communities, it's recognized that kollel for all should not be the ideal and anyway is unsustainable.

The Leader, Garnel Ironheart said...

The key problem is the lack of insight the "kollel community" (KC) has as to the causes of their problems.
Their first assumption, which they will not question, is that theirs is the only real "Torah lifestyle" and therefore should be the goal for every ehrlich Yid.
The problem with this assumption is that it ignores 1800 years of post-Temple history in which only a small minority of Jews ever learned full time while the vast majority worked and supported their communities. While claiming to reject modern innovations, the KC is itself such an innovation. They do not see this hypocrisy.
The second difficulty is the conclusion drawn from the first - since this is the ideal lifestyle, God will miraculously provide. That God might want most of these people to actually go to work and balance their learning with a productive occuption simply does not occur to them. So they continue on with the assumption that somehow the money will continue to appear.
The social tragedy this will create is enough to make one scream.

Anonymous said...

Long term kollel for the elite 1 - 2%. The rest need to go work.

Stunned said...

I call this the "isreali-fication" of Amrecian Charedi society. The death of Rabbi Feinstein and Rabbi Kaminstesky within weeks of each other left American RW Jewry without a true unquestioned leader. So they turned to EY and started copying them - no work, no education, parents pay for everything post marriage, etc.

Forgetr college! Do you know that in Lakewood there are no HIGH SCHOOLS that offer secular edcuation? bizarre.

Anonymous said...

Stunned: Is that true? NO secular education in high school seems like a form of child neglect/abuse to me.

ProfK said...

How does Lakewood get away with that? New Jersey is one of six states that require all students to remain in high school until age 17--and by that they are referring to getting a secular education, not just sitting in a building that claims to be a high school. Exemptions can be made for those getting vocational training or who leave high school early to enroll in an institution of higher learning--think college. So is Lakewood now claiming that their yeshiva high schools are vocational training schools, such that students don't have to be enrolled in secular subjects, or are they claiming that their high schools are institutions of higher learning? Something doesn't smell right here.

Anonymous said...

ProfK: Maybe the government/regulators just don't want to tangle with this demographic on this issue and follows a de facto don't ask/don't tell policy.

tesyaa said...

I think Anon 9:50 is correct. Can anyone say political suicide? And see this post.

Anonymous said...

So as long as you aren't giving money to support this lifestyle, either directly or indirectly by giving to any of the RW/Kollel promoting community's organizations what is it to us? In Israel, there is a legitimate concern that this lifestyle will eventually cause huge schisms and werious economic problems hurting all of Israel, (not to mention imposing their beliefs on others -- think back of the bus, rioting, etc.) but this group is a small blip here and won't bring down the U.S. and they don't have the power to impose their extremist beliefs on others here.

tesyaa said...

Anon 10:03 - it's very hard to avoid giving indirectly. At many schools, there are parents on scholarship whose own funds are depleted by supporting older kollel children. Your tuition goes up because they can't afford full tuition. And there's huge competition for charity dollars fueled by kollel needs. Even if you aren't giving to kollel charities, other charities are suffering because of cut-in from kollels. So you may end up giving the charities you support more when they have their emergency campaigns. I'm not denigrating tzedaka ch"v, but if those who don't really need take from those who do, the whole community suffers.

Anonymous said...

Ok Tessya. You'r correct. But it floors me that scholarship committees would consider giving money to a family that chooses to support able bodied healthy adults who choose not to work. It seems to me that is as much a luxury as is buying a new lexus or granite countertops.

JS said...

As someone who doesn't live in, agree with, or financially support the kollel system, it's hard for me to care beyond the issue of kol yosroel areivim zeh la'zeh. But, even to that last point, it's becoming harder to care as I see RW Orthodoxy splitting away to form another denomination (in the sense of Orthodox vs Conservative). I think it's a real shame, and I wish a Jew could just be a Jew without all the labels, but such is the world we live in. We all ostensibly pray to the same God, but we're definitely not practicing the same religion. In fact, it's pretty remarkable how custom, chumrahs, hashkafa, and the like can so completely divide people who claim to be adherents of the same faith.

I just try to do what is right for me and my family and let everyone else worry about themselves. We make lots of choices people around us find ludicrous or absurd - we drive a 16+ year old car despite our income, I mow the lawn myself instead of paying someone else, my wife and I work 11 or so hour days, etc. This is how we want to live and we don't care what others think or say. So, let the kollel people live however they want. If the values are so important to them, I guess they'll find a way to continue to make it work.

I also find it amazing that it is completely taken for granted, even in LW modern orthodoxy, that grown, newly married adults are to be supported by their parents. For example, see Anon at 7:31AM: "How do families who have paid years of tuition for multiple children have anything left over to support adult married children?"

It's not even a question, it's just assumed. How did it get to this point? My wife and I dated a few years before getting married since we met when we were in college and weren't working yet. After college, I lived at home for a while to save money for our future life together. When married we had a small, cheap, one bedroom to save money.

The real issue is people aren't willing to sacrifice and work hard (or at least not as much) because they just assume the support. Or even worse, those without the support want to live the same as those with it thereby bankrupting themselves (as opposed to those with support who just bankrupt their parents).

In the end, let people LW or RW do whatever they want, I know my family will be OK.

Anonymous said...

JS - In the end, let people LW or RW do whatever they want, I know my family will be OK.

But it WON'T be OK. Because our children will eventually marry and there isn't going to be much of a pool of modern Orthodox kids ... no, forget modern, I don't care about that ... there won't be enough of a pool of sane Orthodox kids for our kids to marry and thus many of them will either leave Judaism altogether or will marry RW and move in the direction of oblivion as described above.

I mean the tiny pool of people that include your kids, my kids, tesyaa's kids, efrex's kids, DovBear's kids, ProfK's grandkids, LOZ's kids, etc simply isn't enough :-(

We (the sane ones) are rapidly becoming irrelevant. And even that bastion of religious sanity that was the dati leumi in Israel are losing many of their children to the RW (or to secularism).


JS said...


I don't take such a gloomy view even though I do believe that centrist MO is shrinking.

I find myself identifying far more with those on the left than on the right, so if there was some sort of schism or I was forced to choose, I'd move to the left. This kind of echoes my point above with respect to the kollel crowd and hashkafa, customs, chumrahs, etc. My own set of those 3 are far more in line with LW branches or Orthodoxy or RW Conservative (this is true even though I have never davened in a Conservative shul). I just feel more comfortable around those to the left and all my friends who self-identify as RW actually have a LW outlook on life and are constantly irked by RW practices. I like the openness, the modernity, not being pigeonholed or forced to conform, not being isolated from society, that everyone works, the belief in derech eretz as actually being kadma l'torah, etc.

Even for yeshiva, my biggest issue (other than value for money, which is different than just "cost") is that I don't share the ideas and ideals that yeshivas teach.

To your main point though, and maybe this is someone who isn't a parent yet speaking, I think each child is their own person and there's only so much you can do to try to shape into the person you hope you can be. My wife's family is a good example. My wife is LW and doesn't cover her hair outside shul and wears pants while her sister used to be that way, went to a frummy summer camp and came home brainwashed - insisting that friday night kabalat shabbat must be davened outside under the stars and consorting with her frummy friends to steal her mother's pots and pans while she was away to toveil them.

Anonymous in Teaneck said...

JS said: "As someone who doesn't live in, agree with, or financially support the kollel system ..."

We all, through our taxes, support the kollel system. It is not just those in the Jewish community who choose to support this, but all of us who are supporting people who choose not to enter the labor force.

Stunned said...

Me again. I called the NJ Dept of Education about this, and they told me that there is no law in place to force a curriculum on a school, though they suggest one.

Those who live in Lakewood and want secular HS education must send their kids to yeshivas that are slightly outside the town limits (I think Jackson has one).

And from the comments above it is clear that I live on the right comapred to most commenters, since all the people in my circles knew about this travesty. But it is celar I lvie to the left of Lakewood since all the people in my circles think taht it is a travesty!

Which makes me a LW-RW Ortho Jew. Hows that for a new label?

Anonymous said...

the reason that MO is dying is because our schools hired yeshivish/RW rebbeim who cant even speak or write a coherent sentence in hebrew. the MO schools (frisch ramaz etc, dont really teach limudei kodesh in hebrew because the teachers cant do it and the admnistation says we want the kids to be comfortable with gemara in their native language-
how absurd.
but its these rebbeim who influence the kids.
and since 12 years of a MO education is not enough to innoculate ones children from the big bad evil non jewish world, the administartors/principlas of the MO yeshivas/day schools tell us you must send your kid to israel for at least one year if not two and they get further brain washed in israel and come back RW.
that is the reason why MO is dying. i am amazed by the numbers of children of friends who were MO and mothers didnt cover thier hair, wore pants mixed swimming etc

and pwhose parents were professionsal and come back wearing black and white and go into chinuch
( but then again maybe 'real' MO we practice is actaully conservatism and doesnt really follow shulcan aruch

ProfK said...

Big difference then between NJ and NY. NY does mandate the subject matter a school must teach if it is a substitute for a public school. It's the state that issues the high school diplomas and it has Regents examinations that cover the mandated material. Yes, there is some serious fooling around in the senior year of many boys yeshiva high schools, with virtually no English program except for some highly abbreviated cram sessions for the Regents exams, but by their senior year a student, with permission of his parents, can opt out of high school.

" LW-RW Ortho Jew. Hows that for a new label?" Hmm, from your comments it might be more accurate to label you a LW-RW Modern Orthodox Machmir Jew. But hey, give it a few more days and someone will come up with a new label.

tesyaa said...

The post I linked to at 9:54 am today claims that there are schools in NY where boys learn no secular studies, too. Good Shabbos.

Anonymous said...

We can do this without radically blowing up the universal kollel ideal. Just limit to 2 years for all but the best - make continued kollel places competitive.

Eliyahoo William Dwek said...

Any man who chooses to be a ‘rabbi’ (‘true teacher’ of Torah) or a ‘dayan’ (‘judge’), or a ‘mekubal’ (‘kabbalist’) should be doing so Voluntarily. Out of his pure love for Hashem and the Torah. And his Ahavat Yisrael.

If he refuses to do community work voluntarily, and wants and accepts payment for everything he does, such a man should not be leading a community. He should get a job and earn a living. He can collect milk bottles or clean the windows. That is what is called ‘earning a living’.

Torah is learned, studied and taught: out of Love. Voluntarily. But the ‘rabbis’ have turned the Torah into their ‘Profession’, from which they earn money.

We are commanded in the Shema to:

‘LOVE Hashem, your G-d, WITH ALL YOUR HEART, and with all your soul and with all your might.’

‘VE’AHAVTA et Hashem Elokecha BECHOL LEVAVECHA uvechol nafshecha uvechol meodecha.’ (Devarim, Vaethanan, 6:4-5)

Is the ordinary man or woman PAID to pray to Hashem, or to say some words of Torah? No. Has veshalom! But the rabbis are. These men can give ‘lovely’ shiurim that they have rehearsed. But they would not give a shiur without being paid for it.

The true hachamim and rabbis of old, all actually worked at proper jobs and professions.

Wake up! Even a little child could have worked this out. These salaried men can never truly stand for the Torah, because in a case of conflict between a correct course of action according to the Torah, and the rabbi or rav’s pocket – his pocket and position will always prevail.

Pirkei Avot: (2:2)
“Raban Gamliel beno shel Rabi Yehuda HaNassi omer: yafeh talmud Torah im derech eretz, sheyegiat shenaihem mashkachat avon. Vechol Torah she’ein imah melacha sofa betailah ve’goreret avon. Vechol haoskim im hatzibbur yiheyu imahem leShem Shamayim……”

“Rabban Gamliel, the son of Rabi Yehuda HaNassi, said: It is good to combine Torah study with a worldly occupation, for working at them both drives sin from the mind. All Torah without an occupation will in the end fail and lead to sin. And let all who work for the community do so for the sake of Heaven………”

Eliyahoo William Dwek said...

When ‘dayanim’, ‘rabbis’ and false ‘mekubalim’ use the Torah for their own power and commercial profit, this behaviour is abhorrent.

No other ‘rabbi’ will ever act against another ‘rabbi’ - even when he knows his colleague is clearly desecrating the Torah. Each rabbi is only worried about losing his own position.

Therefore, the ‘rabbi’, ‘dayyan’ or false ‘mekubal’ (‘kabbalist’) will never effect justice. And he will never truly stand for the Torah or the Honour of Hashem. His pocket will always prevail.

The Torah must never be used for commercial gain and profit. Amm israel can only be lead by those who have the necessary love and respect of Hashem and the Torah.

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