Why does the government give benefits to kollel yungerleit?

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    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a kollel taking pell grants or its families taking medicaid, wic, snap and other benefits.

    But on a policy level, should the government be giving welfare benefits to people who are deliberately poor as a lifestyle? Or be giving scholarships to Kollelim that aren’t helping people’s careers? If I was in Congress I would make all social programs depend on if the recipient shows evidence that’s he’s trying to crawl out of poverty. And completely stop kollelim and kollel families from benefitting from any social nets.

    Is this controversial?


    It is worthwhile for the government to fund those who are dedicated to advancing their education.


    There are many aspects to this question, depending on how you approach it. From a small government/conservative side, the government should not fund people who are intentionally poor. the idea of welfare should be to help people get back on their feet. Now, you might say funding education is a good idea, and it is, but this education does not contribute to the things that national policymakers consider valuable.

    That being said, we are yidden, not secular policymakers or small government advocates. If benefits will be distributed, then an exclusively peaceful nation of scholars that produces people who do contribute a lot to the nation physically (not usually while in kollel, but afterwards) and by and large pays taxes should definitely be on the list to receive benefits. From a yiddishe perspective, the world runs on Torah, and while some may not appreciate this, it is obvious to us that yungerleit learning in kollel are of immeasurable benefit to this country.


    Of course, it is controversial but I think you realized that. From the perspective of the democrats in the government it seems that they don’t really care about whether a person is trying to get out of poverty. They want those votes and therefore want to be seen as the ones who give out free money, take from the rich and give to the poor etc. The poor are victims and the rich are bad. The Republicans generally try to wean the poor away from poverty. Recently they did make a rule about able body people not being eligible for food stamps. It really all comes down to politics.
    If you consider what goes on in academia you would realize that a few thousand graduate students taking money to study advanced Talmud is actually quite admirable. When you look at it from that perspective there is no moral flaw from the perspective of the kollel guys.
    If every frum person would be scrupulously honest when it comes to these programs it would actually be a kidush Hashem. Unfortunately That may not always be the case.

    Doing my best

    From the government’s perspective, yes, the programs were not designed very smartly.
    From a Kollel person’s perspective, it’s a gift from Hashem!


    There’s no law that says you have to work. Welfare helps people buy things. These kollel yungeleit are supporting grocery stores with the money.

    Doing my best

    “There’s no law that says you have to work.”
    “Welfare helps people buy things.”
    Also true.
    “These kollel yungeleit are supporting grocery stores with the money.”
    To delude yourself that this is why it is okay for Kollel Yungeleit to collect welfare does not cast a good light on your intelligence. It is okay simply because the government offered free money and you’d have to be stupid to say No thank you.


    One of the effects if welfare is that the money gets circulated into the economy. Why single out Kollel yungeleit over any welfare recipient? It’s not worth it skaving over a minimum job or a job that pays $20/hour just to lose money to taxes.

    Sam Klein

    If you live a life of faith and trust in Hashem by staying in learning full time. Then Hashem has his messengers-in this case it’s SNAP and WIC etc….-to support you and send you money instead of your physical working boss at a job paying you.

    Let’s explain this on the next level which is a higher level. If a person is devoted to a life of Torah and mitzvos like a kollel yid all day and night then he is not put on the curse of Adam Harishon who ate from the tree of knowledge without permission and was punished with a lifetime that he will have to labor and work hard for his money etc… . To stay alive and feed himself and his family etc…..

    May we all start to live completely attached to Hashem knowing that every aspect of your life comes directly from Hashem. Even the money that yes you did work hard for, it still comes from Hashem who sent you that job and livlihood to support your family. So let’s stop depending on physical bosses, doctors and others etc… And turn directly to Hashem for ALL OUR NEEDS and Hashem will always be there for you to answer you for whatever you call out for (if it’s for your good and the right time etc….)


    @Snitz, so get petitions, raise funds and run instead of kvetching online


    The issue speaks to the crux of social programming in general. In a purely capitalistic meritocracy, social programming wouldn’t exist. Now if the compromise between the right and the left to allow certain social programs is a means of facilitating greater future financial stability, then there would be a long list of people who wouldn’t qualify and wold be left to their own devices, i.e. to completely fend for themselves. I don’t know how anyone could morally allow such a thing to happen, be the people Yidden or not. The other impetus behind social programming would be to simply help the poor manage in their daily lives, i.e. it’s more about keeping them alive then ensuring they have future stability.
    In a general sense, Israel is more socialist then America is, and so the tendency would seem to lean towards the latter framework and not the former.
    To me, the more astounding social phenomenon is that the very same people who generally argue for the broadening of social programming in the US (among us Yidden, the more left-leaning of us) are the very same ones who argue that it should not be applicable to Chareidim. This is a position I find to be highly hypocritical, and probably does reveal, at least to an extent, a deeper bias driving the conversation….

    🍫Syag Lchochma

    “Is this controversial?”

    You wouldn’t have bothered writing it if it wasn’t. But it’s also moronic and based on false premises that only a non kollel yid could invent.

    The welfare system isn’t there to only fund people who happen to be out of work but wish they weren’t. It’s about income levels per capita. Period. Your statement about “choosing to be poor” is disgusting. Im sure you would never grant such a title to someone who decides to live on one income so that their kids don’t have to be raised by babysitteres. Or how about someone who leaves their job to put together a startup that may never take off or is in a field that doesn’t make tons? Do you call them deliberately poor as well? Or is it the lack of value of long time learning that runs your campaign?

    If i was a government employee and i saw a group of people who put in 10 hour days, showed up 6 days a week, gave up alot of life’s physical perks, and were married to women who were proud of them, all because it brings you closer to Gd and gives you endless reward, i wouldn’t just be glad to help, but i would chastise the community for not paying them more.

    You seem to have very little understanding of what “life on welfare” looks like. Or what the majority of it’s recipients are doing with their waking hours.


    The question in itself shows an obvious bias.

    There is no work requirement for any welfare recipient. Those who are in Kollel also benefit from that. And people in Kollel are technically students. More welfare loafers are not.

    As a vehement opponent of programs, I see the Yad Hashem in this to encourage kollel. Why else (other than getting voters and supporters of course) would rational people support a system where working makes no sense, you can be better off financially as a loafer than a taxpayer?


    Hooray for Syag!!!


    The government gives lots of people lots of benefits. Suggesting they should exclude kollel families from entitlements to which everyone is entitled would be very unconstitutional. American law is very big in treating everyone equally.

    As to the question about whether the government should aid persons who are poor, regardless of reason, that goes back. Originally the policy was very restricted. One couldn’t get “welfare” unless you had sold all your possessions, and moved to the “poor house”. It was felt that giving money to poor people would make them lazy and corrupt their souls. For the most part, “welfare” was considered the function of private (usually religious) groups.

    As America became “diverse” (this goes back 250 years, originally America was dominated by WASPs), the newcomers tended to be Jews and Catholics whose traditions supported charity, and overtime the government got into “welfare” business and at this point, add to the poor is considered by most Americans to be a proper government function, so we have programs such as welfare, food stamps, WIC, social security, medicare, CHIP, tuition waivers at universities, legal aid, Obamacare, etc. This isn’t really controversial anymore, and no one wants to go back to the old system which saw support the poor as being a bad thing. This has proven very good for frum Jews since we have large families and many people who put Torah and Mitsvos ahead of earning a parnassah, and consequently benefit from government hand-outs.

    And yes, one can argue they got much of the idea from Yidden (directly or indirectly). Our communities always tried to be a welfare state (which was very hard for financial and economic reasons).


    Thanks guys for your input. I didn’t mean for people to become defensive about this topic; I just wanted to see what the Coffee Room consensus is on these questions. It looks like there are three schools of thought:

    (a) Perhaps from a general political viewpoint kollel people are less deserving of welfare than general recipients, however, if I were President (@commonsaychel sorry don’t want to be in Congress after all, despite syag’s contention that i already began running a campaign) I should still support the system because it spiritually benefits my people and perhaps enriches the entire country. I hear. I have some issues with this, but I actually get it.

    (b) perhaps kollel yungerleit are theoretically less deserving than the General Welfare Recipients but The government should never make qualifiers on who is eligible for entitlements. This is the Democratic Party’s position. However the Liberals are just saying that there is no need to make work requirements because they believe that having a social net does not deter people from working. And this may be true in the general world and the post-kollel frum world. But Kollel families are different, and this is based on anecdotal evidence, but it seems like many people stay in kollel because they have medicaid and snap. I’ve heard of a few people that left kollel and began a career when they got disenrolled from Medicaid.

    (c) kollel yungerleit are just as deserving as General Welfare Recipients. I would say that this is probably true of many (ie the wives have middle to high income jobs). But IF there’s a substantial subgroup of kollel yungerleit that is disincentivized to be employed because of their welfare, then that’s a structural problem with welfare. And then we would have to get down to the nitty gritty of this and make a new thread “empirical data…” but i don’t think anybody’s interested.

    (D) NOYB apparently believes that receiving welfare should be like receiving a prize in 4th grade – you deserve it if you’re “good”. 1 apparently believes in some twisted form of Keynesian economics. And Syag believes that I’m moronic, disgusting and definitely a nonkollel person for the sin of writing that kollel yungerleit are mosser nefesh to go through unbearable financial lachatz so they can learn as long as is physically possible (“deliberately poor as a lifestyle”). What made you think I don’t value that??? Because I don’t think the right venue for that is taxpayer aid??? I 100% value a kollel life over American hedonism /chasing after money. would it make you happier if from now own I use more yeshivish language? Sad.

    (e) @n0mesorah. I was initially under the assumption that federal aid for education is a poverty reduction program that helps poor people get good careers. After doing some research, it seems like you’re right that all the federal government wants is postsecondary education l’sheim postsecondary education and the Pell grants have nothing to do with helping peoples’ careers.

    🍫Syag Lchochma

    “And Syag believes that I’m moronic,”

    I said the question is moronic


    I said your word choice was disgusting

    ” and definitely a nonkollel person”

    I do believe it would take a non kollel supporter to label kollel as you did. I am always willing to be mistaken.

    “for the sin of writing that kollel yungerleit are mosser nefesh to go through unbearable financial lachatz so they can learn as long as is physically possible”

    That is *exactly* what you *didn’t * write. Or imply. Perhaps you should have.

    (“deliberately poor as a lifestyle”). What made you think I don’t value that??? ”

    Your word choices.

    🍫Syag Lchochma

    “would it make you happier if from now own I use more yeshivish language?”

    Still wondering what this responds to. I didn’t say you don’t talk like a kollel person, i said your choice of wording lacks a display of support for it. You are saying “poor by choice” is complimentary? Okay, although I don’t think thats inherently obvious. Committed to a low paying job? Committing to being a perpetual student? Those sound more respectful in a world/forum where people see ‘poor by choice’ as the begining of the sentence, and ‘so they can collect welfare’ as the end.
    I stand corrected.


    Dear syag
    I think my word choice was important as I wanted to clearly distinguish between general welfare recipients who probably aren’t happy with their situation and kollel yungerleit who basically planned their financial situation to be this way, more or less. (Which i value). I guess the language I used is similar to what people see on Antisemitic facebook posts so that triggered ppl , but that wasn’t my intention.


    We also should remember that if Ha-Shem decides you are going to be rich, you will end up being rich whether you like it or not. You may choose to be a poor kollel student and end up working in hinuch, but if Ha-Shem wants you to be rich, Ha-Shem will find a way. And if you decide you want to rich and become world renown for giving tsadakkah, and Ha-SHem decides you should be living off tsadakkah, guess what.

    anonymous Jew

    The “kollel for All ” model is of relatively recent origin ( probably since the 1970’s ) for several reasons.
    In Europe, full time yeshiva education beyond the basics was limited to the brightest students . There was no government social systems and the Jewish community was too poor to support B and C students. As it was, the yeshivas required globetrotting fundraisers to stay open.
    Ironically, it was the baby boomers, the first Jewish generation granted relatively unrestricted access to law medical and dental schools , that provided the wealth that gave kollels the financial ability to open their doors ( and the creation of Medicaid etc ) to anyone who wants to learn.
    I have no problem with government support, with 1qualification. Kollels should give periodic exams to see if the students are actually learning or are there for other reasons ( i.e. for shidduch purposes,or they simply don’t want to work for a living ). Someone not learning shouldn’t be there on the government’s dime.


    On one hand, we should be proud of the yungerleit for choosing to learn, and for a short term it is no different than those going to college.

    That being said… Yidden have survived passing on the Torah for thousands of years without lifelong kollels. Men learned after work and when their children went to bed. And while sitting and learning was once a luxury for only the richest, now every girl is convinced that she needs a learning boy, and that the poverty is a worthy sacrifice. And while learning is admirable, I really wonder how many boys feel called to learn, while others are there because it’s the “right thing to do” or because of pressure from family and the community. And the boys that are there should be grateful that people care enough to sponsor their learning, instead of feeling entitled.

    But there is a thin line between choosing to live in poverty and forcing that lifestyle on your children. I grew up in Teaneck, so English was my primary language. I learned a variety of subjects at school.

    Edited 😳

    So if you’re going to accept help, and I have no issue with that, people should be taught that they must help later as well. A kollel is not a college with tuition up front. The boys are getting a solid education for free, and should be willing to pay it back by personally donating instead of expecting the government.

    Above all, strive to be better than the previous generations.

    🍫Syag Lchochma

    SB – i hear, and although I don’t have facebook, I see plenty of it here, so I agree with the theory. I also seem to remember you leaning toward controversy in other posts… as I said, I was wrong about your intention.

    Anon Jew- is this regulating only for weeding out kollel people or are you advocating a wellness check on the rest of the recipients as well. I would guess being in kollel when you shouldn’t be is an internal monitoring issue, and funding has no shaichus. If you leave kollel you still need the help.

    Also – what’s with so many people talking about this free money for kollelites as if they aren’t putting in 54 hours a week for inferior healthcare and just enough funds to not starve but not enough to actually live off of? Why is it bugging you so much? Because you think they are using up *your* money? I hope you have the same attitude toward *every single public school student* who fails to get a college degree.


    Dear Anonymous,
    What would happen if you ran a Kollel, and the guy who barely shows up aced the test, and the one who is there on time for every seder flunked it?


    Dear Nyob,
    You may think kollel education does not benefit to society, but the policy makers do. Having educated people, able to disseminate information to their community is very valuable. It is a major reason why poor communities stay poor. (Too many bad choices because of an inability to self-educate.) Kolleliet, are able to self-navigate medical, legal, and family issues. Compare how literate this site is, to the majority of middle-low class Americans. Most Americans would have difficulty keeping up with basics of political analysis in this forum. And we do it with out stopping to think. (This makes us seem more polarized than we really are.) Also, very little of the money is going toward alcohol and drugs as compared with the rest of the country.


    Resentment of those who rely on public charity is contrary to Jewish values.

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