A kollel or colel (Hebrew: כולל, pl. כוללים, kollelim, a "gathering" or "collection" [of scholars]) is an institute for full-time, advanced study of the Talmud and rabbinic literature. Like a yeshiva, a kollel features shiurim (lectures) and learning sedarim (sessions); unlike a yeshiva, the student body of a kollel consists mostly of married men. A kollel generally pays a regular monthly stipend to its members.
Originally, the word was used in the sense of "community". Each group of European Jews settling in Israel established their own community with their own support system. Each community was referred to as the "kollel of [place-name]" to identify the specific community of the Old Yishuv. The overwhelming majority of these Jews were scholars who left their homelands to devote themselves to study Torah and serve God for the rest of their lives. The kollel was the umbrella organization for all their needs.
The first examples were Kolel Perushim (students of the Vilna Gaon who established the first Ashkenazi Jewish settlement in Jerusalem) and Colel Chabad for the Russian Hasidim. The Polish Jews were divided into many kollelim: Kolel Polen (Poland), headed by Rabbi Chaim Elozor Wax; Kolel Vilna Zamość was under different leadership; and the Galicians were incorporated under Kolel Chibas Yerushalayim. 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.
The first kollel – in the modern sense of the term – in the Jewish diaspora was the Kovno Kollel ("Kolel Perushim") founded in Kovno (Kaunas, Lithuania) in 1877. It was founded by Rabbi Yisrael Salanter and directed by Rabbi Isaac Blaser. The ten students enrolled 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 (founder of Beth Medrash Govoha, Lakewood, New Jersey, the largest yeshiva in the US) and Rabbi Elazar Shach, 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.
The philosophy of the kollel, in which members are subsisting entirely on support from others, is part of an overall philosophy of some Orthodox Jews, that God desires that the children of Israel primarily occupy themselves in this world with the study of the Torah, 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 'Yissachar-Zebulun' partnership, after the Midrashic legend that the tribe of Zevulun financially supported the tribe of Issachar so that they could occupy themselves with Torah study. The reward of the supporter in the World-to-Come is seen to be equal to that of the scholar's reward.
Most kollels have a scholar serving as a rosh kollel, or head of the kollel. He decides on the subject matter studied by the kollel. In many cases he also has to spend considerable time fund-raising to support the kollel.
Many kollels employ former students – avrechim (אברכים), sg. avrech (אברך) – as fundraisers, often giving them euphemistic titles such as Executive Director or Director of Community Programming. Fundraising projects may include sponsorships of specific events or "day(s) of learning." Many kollels are savvy users of social media for fundraising purposes.
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 working wives, and the increased wealth of many families have made kollel study commonplace for yeshiva graduates. The largest United States kollel is at Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, New Jersey. More than 4,500 kollel scholars are attached to the yeshiva, which has 6500 students in total. Large kollels also exist in Ner Israel Rabbinical College, numbering 180 scholars, and in Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin, with more than 100 scholars. In the Israeli Haredi Jewish 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 Israeli public at large. It has been criticized by the Modern Orthodox, non-Orthodox, and secular Jewish communities. The Haredi community defends the practice of kollel on the grounds that Judaism must cultivate Torah scholarship in the same way that the secular academic world conducts research into subject areas. While costs may be high in the short run, in the long run the Jewish people will benefit from having numerous learned laymen, scholars, and rabbis. (See also: Religious relations in Israel)
Yeshiva students who learn in kollel often continue their studies and become rabbis, poskim ("deciders" of Jewish law), or teachers of Talmud and Judaism. Others enter the world of business. If successful, they may financially support the study of others while making time to continue their own learning.
In the late 20th century, community kollelim were introduced. They are an Orthodox outreach tool, aimed to decrease assimilation and propagate Orthodox Judaism among the wider Jewish population. In the early 1990s community kollelim (or kollels) in North America were functioning in Los Angeles, Toronto, and Detroit; a kollel was also established in Montreal. Other locations with community kollelim include Miami Beach; Dallas; St. Louis, Missouri; Minneapolis; Atlanta; Seattle; Pittsburgh; Las Vegas; Philadelphia; and Phoenix, Arizona.
In the past years about 30 Haredi community kollelim in North America have been opened by yeshiva-trained scholars to serve, in addition to the full-time study by the members of the kollel, as centers for adult education and outreach to the Jewish communities in which they located themselves. Topics include everything from basic Hebrew to advanced Talmud. In addition to imparting Torah knowledge, such kollels function to impart technical skills required for self-study.
Maimonides in his code of Jewish law, is very critical of those that study Torah without having a source of income and rely on charity, to the extent that he calls it a disgrace to God and to the Torah.
However, the kollel system is both a popular and accepted one in many Orthodox Jewish circles, yet some maintain that a distinction must be made between a situation of mutual desire for such by both the learner and the supporter and, on the other hand, communities that put pressure on the learner to join and remain in a kollel while simultaneously putting pressure on the community to support such an individual.
Some other criticisms of the modern kollel system include:
kollels generally pay a regular monthly stipend to their married members.
The Kovno Kollel also known as Kollel Perushim of Kovno or Kollel Knesses Beis Yitzchok, was ...
Kollel Kovno was the first kernel of the yeshivah, established in 5637 (1877).
The first kollel .. was the Kovno Kollel, the "Kollel Perushim" founded in Kovno (Lithuania) in 1877. The ten students were required to separate from their families, except for the Sabbath, and devote themselves to studying for the Rabbinate.
Yitzchak Elchanan Yeshiva is also known as the Kovno Kollel (also known as ... It was founded in 1877 by Rabbi Yisrael Lipkin Salanter
..Kollel ... under the guidance of Rabbi Aharon Kotler. At first, he traveled to each community ...
The Legacy Of Maran Rav Aharon Kotler: A Vivid Portrait of ... the kollel philosophy ...
This year, the Waterbury Jewish community turns 10. ... a little extra, so they bring in a yeshiva or a kollel or more young families. ... until the dreamer approached Torah Umesorah, the national society of Orthodox day schools and ...
.. communities in North America: the community kollel. .... as a unique movement within American Orthodoxy. ... the Torah Umesorah educational network
... person supports the other who learns Torah, and the reward is shared between the two of them, has come to be known as a “Yissachar-Zevulun” partnership.
Tzitz Eliezer on Yissachar/Zevulun Relationships ... who study Torah, but this kind of arrangement only works if it's a partnership
Rabbi Chaim Fasman now holds the position of rosh kollel (head) of Kollel Los Angeles Bais Avrohom, the largest of six kollels in Los Angeles, with 15 full-time learners. ... you need years of training to become a Torah scholar.
... Sunday morning by the Rosh Kollel Harav Shlomo Miller Shlita
... studied at Yeshiva University's Gruss Kollel, where he earned smicha.
Toronto's Kollel graduates have become Rabbis
... kollelim, lit. a "group" or "collection" [of scholars]) is an ... and are supported by ... the Jewish community (or sometimes ...). ... recent innovation that was introduced in the late 20th century as a response to ...
... analogy to the twentieth century "community kollelim" in which young families ... The introduction of a new, organized framework ...
That purpose is to offer Jewish education to all Jews, regardless of level of ... to the values of community, family and educational outreach. The Kollel provides ...
This has economic implications and dooms most haredim to poverty, dependence on welfare or on the earnings of their wives.
There is nothing in Jewish history that compares to this society of learners. It is very serious and very dangerous for us to encourage ultra-Orthodox men to remain in kollels. It causes enormous harm to the economy.
One of the great deficiencies in yeshiva students is their absorption with depth of study to the exclusion of quantity. Thus, after many years of study they are shockingly ignorant of huge amounts of Talmud. At the same time there is a vast ignorance of the practical halachic rulings in everyday life.