Kollel

Kollel

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A kollel is an institute for full-time, advanced study
Torah study
Torah study is the study by Jewish people of the Torah, Hebrew Bible, Talmud, responsa, rabbinic literature and similar works, all of which are Judaism's religious texts...

 of the Talmud
Talmud
The Talmud is a central text of mainstream Judaism. It takes the form of a record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, philosophy, customs and history....

 and rabbinic literature
Rabbinic literature
Rabbinic literature, in its broadest sense, can mean the entire spectrum of rabbinic writings throughout Jewish history. However, the term often refers specifically to literature from the Talmudic era, as opposed to medieval and modern rabbinic writing, and thus corresponds with the Hebrew term...

. Like a yeshiva
Yeshiva
Yeshiva is a Jewish educational institution that focuses on the study of traditional religious texts, primarily the Talmud and Torah study. Study is usually done through daily shiurim and in study pairs called chavrutas...

, a kollel features shiurim (lectures) and learning sedarim (learning sessions); unlike a yeshiva, the student body of a kollel are all married men. Kollels generally pay a regular monthly stipend to their members.

Beginning in the last third of the 20th century, the kollel concept expanded with the introduction of community kollels. Community kollels are a kiruv
Orthodox Judaism outreach
Orthodox Jewish outreach commonly referred to as Kiruv or Keruv , is the collective work or movement of Orthodox Judaism that reaches out to non-Orthodox Jews to believe in God, engage in Torah study, and practice the Mitzvot in the hope that they will live according to Orthodox Jewish law...

 (Jewish outreach) tool which aims to increase Jewish knowledge and identity as a hedge against assimilation. Community kollels are typically composed of a minyan
Minyan
A minyan in Judaism refers to the quorum of ten Jewish adults required for certain religious obligations. According to many non-Orthodox streams of Judaism adult females count in the minyan....

 of students who engage in advanced Torah study with their own rabbis and shiurim for part of the day, and then conduct one-on-one learning sessions, free classes, and holiday activities for the Jewish community at large during the other part of the day.

Original sense



Originally, the word was used in the sense of "community". Each new group of settlers who came from various European countries to settle in Palestine established their own separate community with their own support system. Each community was referred to as the Kollel of... to identify the specific community of the Yishuv haYashan. The overwhelming majority of these settlers were scholars who left their homelands to devote themselves to study Torah and serve G-d for the rest of their lives. The Kollel was the umbrella organization for all their needs.

The first examples were Kolel Perushim who were the students of the Vilna Gaon, and who established the first Ashkenaz settlement in Jerusalem, Colel Chabad
Colel Chabad
Colel Chabad was founded in 1788 and is the oldest continuously operating charity in Israel. The institution runs a network of soup kitchens and food banks, dental and medical clinics, daycare centers, widow and orphan support, and immigrant assistance programs...

 for the Russian
History of the Jews in Russia and the Soviet Union
The vast territories of the Russian Empire at one time hosted the largest populations of Jews in the diaspora. Within these territories the Jewish community flourished and developed many of modern Judaism's most distinctive theological and cultural traditions, while also facing periods of...

 Hasidim
Hasidic Judaism
Hasidic Judaism or Hasidism, from the Hebrew —Ḥasidut in Sephardi, Chasidus in Ashkenazi, meaning "piety" , is a branch of Orthodox Judaism that promotes spirituality and joy through the popularisation and internalisation of Jewish mysticism as the fundamental aspects of the Jewish faith...

. The Polish Jews were divided into many Kollelim; Kollel Polen headed by Rabbi Chaim Elozor Wax
Chaim Elozor Wax
Chaim Elozor Wax was a famous posek, a Hasidic rabbi, and a leader in Jewish Poland. He was a philanthropist and accomplished student of the Talmud....

; Kollel Vilna Zamutch was under different leadership; and the Galicians were incorporated under Kolel Chibas Yerushalayim
Kolel Chibas Yerushalayim
Kolel Chibas Jerusalem , also known as the Charity of Rabbi Meyer Ba'al Ha-Nes — named after the great 2nd century Jewish sage Rabbi Meyer — is a large charitable organization based in Jerusalem's Meah Shearim neighbourhood.-History:-Founding:...

. The last initially included the entire Austro-Hungarian Kingdom, but as each subparty looking for more courteous distribution, the Hungarians separated into Kolel Shomrei HaChomos
Kolel Shomrei HaChomos
Kollel Shomrei haChomos is the financial charity institute or kollel to hand support to the Hungarian-Jews who went up to the Holy Land, hence it is called by many the Hungarian Kollel...

.

Modern sense


The first "kollel" in the Jewish diaspora
Jewish diaspora
The Jewish diaspora is the English term used to describe the Galut גלות , or 'exile', of the Jews from the region of the Kingdom of Judah and Roman Iudaea and later emigration from wider Eretz Israel....

 was the Kovno Kollel
Kovno kollel
The Kovno Kollel also known as Kollel Perushim of Kovno or Kollel Knesses Beis Yitzchok, was a kollel located in Kaunas, Lithuania. It was founded in 1877 by Rabbi Yisrael Lipkin Salanter when he was 67....

, the modern sense of the term, the "Kollel Perushim" founded in Kovno in 1877. It was founded by Rabbi Yisrael Salanter
Yisrael Salanter
Rabbi Yisroel Lipkin, better known as "Yisroel Salanter" or "Israel Salanter" , was the father of the Musar movement in Orthodox Judaism and a famed Rosh yeshiva and Talmudist...

, and directed by Rabbi Isaac Blaser
Yitzchak Blazer
Yitzchak Blazer , also known as Reb Itzelle Peterburger, was one of the early leaders of the Musar movement, a Jewish ethical movement based in Lithuania. He was a student of the founder of the movement, Yisrael Salanter, and was responsible for publishing many of Salanter's letters in Or Yisrael...

. The ten students were required to separate from their families, except for the Sabbath, and devote themselves to studying for the Rabbinate. There was a four year limit on one's membership in the kollel.

Two people can be considered to have spearheaded the kollel philosophy and outgrowth in today's world - Rabbi Aharon Kotler
Aharon Kotler
Aharon Kotler was an Orthodox Jewish rabbi and a prominent leader of Orthodox Judaism in Lithuania, and later the United States, where he built Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood Township, New Jersey.- Early life :...

, the founder of Beth Medrash Govoha
Beth Medrash Govoha
Beth Medrash Govoha is a Haredi yeshiva located in Lakewood Township, New Jersey. It is commonly known as BMG, or Lakewood Yeshiva....

, America's largest yeshiva located in Lakewood, NJ, and Rabbi Elazar Shach
Elazar Shach
Elazar Menachem Man Shach also spelt Eliezer Schach, was a leading Lithuanian-born and educated Haredi rabbi in Bnei Brak, Israel. He also served as one of three co-deans of the Ponevezh yeshiva in Bnei Brak along with Rabbis Shmuel Rozovsky and Dovid Povarsky...

, one of the most prominent leaders of the jewish community in Israel until his death in 2001. The community kollel movement was also fostered by Torah Umesorah, the National Society for Hebrew Day Schools.

Currently, the term is applied in America to any stipend given for yeshiva study and is now a general term for the yeshivah approach to life. Even those engaged in outreach work, teaching, or administration can be said to be "in kollel" as long as they are financially dependent on a yeshivah.

With the rise of the kollel movement, members spending increased time on adult education, the term is increasingly becoming a generic synonym, in popular usage, for Torah classes.

Philosophy


The unique philosophy of the kollel, in which members are subsisting entirely on support from others, is part of an overall philosophy of Orthodox Judaism, that G-d meant Jews to primarily occupy themselves in this world with the study of Torah
Torah
Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five books of the bible—Genesis , Exodus , Leviticus , Numbers and Deuteronomy Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five...

, and gave certain Jews more of a propensity to work with the intention that they should support the 'learners'. In orthodox Judaism this has become known as the 'Issachar
Issachar
Issachar/Yissachar was, according to the Book of Genesis, a son of Jacob and Leah , and the founder of the Israelite Tribe of Issachar; however some Biblical scholars view this as postdiction, an eponymous metaphor providing an aetiology of the connectedness of the tribe to others in the Israelite...

-Zebulun
Zebulun
Zebulun was, according to the Books of Genesis and Numbers, the sixth son of Jacob and Leah, and the founder of the Israelite Tribe of Zebulun...

' partership, after the first recorded relationship of this sort in the Bible, where Jacob on his deathbed instructs a more business-inclined brother to support his studious sibling Issachar.
The reward of the supporter is seen to be proportionate, for example in an ideal partnership (50/50 division of the money) the business partner is considered to have an equal portion in the learner's World-To-Come
Paradise
Paradise is a place in which existence is positive, harmonious and timeless. It is conceptually a counter-image of the miseries of human civilization, and in paradise there is only peace, prosperity, and happiness. Paradise is a place of contentment, but it is not necessarily a land of luxury and...

 earned by his studying.

Reform and Conservative Judaism


A minute number of kollelim have been opened by those affiliated with Reform Judaism
Reform Judaism
Reform Judaism refers to various beliefs, practices and organizations associated with the Reform Jewish movement in North America, the United Kingdom and elsewhere. In general, it maintains that Judaism and Jewish traditions should be modernized and should be compatible with participation in the...

 and Conservative Judaism
Conservative Judaism
Conservative Judaism is a modern stream of Judaism that arose out of intellectual currents in Germany in the mid-19th century and took institutional form in the United States in the early 1900s.Conservative Judaism has its roots in the school of thought known as Positive-Historical Judaism,...

. In the non-Orthodox Jewish community a kollel is an adult-education program or center that has courses available on Talmud, Midrash
Midrash
The Hebrew term Midrash is a homiletic method of biblical exegesis. The term also refers to the whole compilation of homiletic teachings on the Bible....

, learning Hebrew
Hebrew language
Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

, Jewish ethics
Mussar movement
The Musar movement is a Jewish ethical, educational and cultural movement that developed in 19th century Eastern Europe, particularly among Orthodox Lithuanian Jews. The Hebrew term Musar , is from the book of Proverbs 1:2 meaning instruction, discipline, or conduct...

 and related topics; less emphasis is given to Talmud.

Community kollels


In the early 1990s "community" kollelim were functioning in Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles , with a population at the 2010 United States Census of 3,792,621, is the most populous city in California, USA and the second most populous in the United States, after New York City. It has an area of , and is located in Southern California...

; Toronto, Ontario, and Detroit, Michigan
Detroit, Michigan
Detroit is the major city among the primary cultural, financial, and transportation centers in the Metro Detroit area, a region of 5.2 million people. As the seat of Wayne County, the city of Detroit is the largest city in the U.S. state of Michigan and serves as a major port on the Detroit River...

, a kollel was established in Montreal, Quebec. Other examples of successful community kollelim include kollelim in Dallas, Texas
Dallas, Texas
Dallas is the third-largest city in Texas and the ninth-largest in the United States. The Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex is the largest metropolitan area in the South and fourth-largest metropolitan area in the United States...

; St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis is an independent city on the eastern border of Missouri, United States. With a population of 319,294, it was the 58th-largest U.S. city at the 2010 U.S. Census. The Greater St...

; Atlanta, Georgia
Atlanta, Georgia
Atlanta is the capital and most populous city in the U.S. state of Georgia. According to the 2010 census, Atlanta's population is 420,003. Atlanta is the cultural and economic center of the Atlanta metropolitan area, which is home to 5,268,860 people and is the ninth largest metropolitan area in...

; Seattle, Washington
Seattle, Washington
Seattle is the county seat of King County, Washington. With 608,660 residents as of the 2010 Census, Seattle is the largest city in the Northwestern United States. The Seattle metropolitan area of about 3.4 million inhabitants is the 15th largest metropolitan area in the country...

; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Pittsburgh is the second-largest city in the US Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the county seat of Allegheny County. Regionally, it anchors the largest urban area of Appalachia and the Ohio River Valley, and nationally, it is the 22nd-largest urban area in the United States...

;and Phoenix, Arizona
Phoenix, Arizona
Phoenix is the capital, and largest city, of the U.S. state of Arizona, as well as the sixth most populated city in the United States. Phoenix is home to 1,445,632 people according to the official 2010 U.S. Census Bureau data...

.

In the past years about 30 Haredi
Haredi Judaism
Haredi or Charedi/Chareidi Judaism is the most conservative form of Orthodox Judaism, often referred to as ultra-Orthodox. A follower of Haredi Judaism is called a Haredi ....

 "community kollelim" in North America have been opened by yeshiva-trained scholars as centers for adult education and outreach to the Jewish communities in which they located themselves. Topics include everything from basic Hebrew
Hebrew language
Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

 to advanced Talmud. In addition to imparting Torah knowledge, such kollels function to impart technical skills required for self-study.

Most Kollels have a scholar as a Rosh Kollel who is the head of the Kollel. He decides on the subject matter studied by the Kollel. In many cases he spends a lot of time fund-raising to support the Kollel.

Many Orthodox Jewish yeshiva students study in kollel for a year or two after they get married, whether or not they will pursue a rabbinic career. Modest stipends or the salaries of their wives and the increased wealth of many families have made kollel study commonplace for yeshiva graduates. The largest U.S. kollel is at Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, New Jersey, with over 1500 kollel scholars attached to the yeshiva which is 4700 strong in total, large kollels also exist in Ner Israel Rabbinical College numbering 180 scholars and in Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin
Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin
Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin or Yeshivas Rabbeinu Chaim Berlin, is a Haredi Lithuanian-type yeshiva located in Brooklyn, New York. Established in 1904 as Yeshiva Tiferes Bachurim, it is the oldest yeshiva in Kings County...

 of over 100 scholars. In the Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

i Haredi Jewish
Haredi Judaism
Haredi or Charedi/Chareidi Judaism is the most conservative form of Orthodox Judaism, often referred to as ultra-Orthodox. A follower of Haredi Judaism is called a Haredi ....

 community thousands of men study full-time for many years in hundreds of kollelim.

Kollel has been known at times to cause a great deal of friction with the secular Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

i public at large, and garnering criticism from the Modern Orthodox
Modern Orthodox Judaism
Modern Orthodox Judaism is a movement within Orthodox Judaism that attempts to synthesize Jewish values and the observance of Jewish law, with the secular, modern world....

, non-Orthodox and secular Jewish community. The Haredi community defends this practice with the argument that Judaism must cultivate Torah scholarship in the same way that the secular academic world does, no matter how high the costs may be financially in the short run, in the long run the Jewish people will benefit from the large number of learned laymen, scholars, and rabbis.

Yeshiva students who learn
Torah study
Torah study is the study by Jewish people of the Torah, Hebrew Bible, Talmud, responsa, rabbinic literature and similar works, all of which are Judaism's religious texts...

 in Kollel often go on to become rabbi
Rabbi
In Judaism, a rabbi is a teacher of Torah. This title derives from the Hebrew word רבי , meaning "My Master" , which is the way a student would address a master of Torah...

s, poskim
Posek
Posek is the term in Jewish law for "decider"—a legal scholar who decides the Halakha in cases of law where previous authorities are inconclusive or in those situations where no halakhic precedent exists....

 ("decisors" of Jewish law), or teachers of Talmud and Judaism.

Sources

  • The World of the Yeshiva: An Intimate Portrait of Orthodox Jewry William B. Helmreich, KTAV Publishing House; ISBN 0-88125-641-2; Augmented edition (February 2000)
  • The way we were before our destruction: Lives of Jewish students from Vilna who perished during the Holocaust Yulian I. Rafes, VIA Press ; YIVO Institute for Jewish Research; ISBN 1-885563-06-X; (July 1, 1998)