By ChabadInfo.com Staff
In the summer of 1973, after visiting the Crown Heights Kollel, the Rebbe shut down the Kollel, and stated clear goals for it to reopen, among them: limiting the number of members, structured learning, new staff, and much more. The original Kollel salary was matched to average rent in Crown Heights, and the payment for the Kollel members came from the Rebbe’s secretariat.
In the 40 years that have since passed, the Kollel has seen ups and downs, with the recent years bringing “downs” with no “ups.” With the monthly stipend frozen at $300 per month, despite the soaring rents, many Kollel yungeleit were forced to find alternative sources of income, compromising the core idea of the Kollel, which is a year of Torah study with no distractions.
However, that was manageable, until recent years, when political maneuvers ousted Rabbi Binyomin Klein, the Rebbe’s long-time secretary, and the one who disbursed the payments, leaving a void which many have since struggled to fill. The Yungeleit started seeing their checks come sporadically, some months late, and some months with no payment at all.
Rabbi Noach Fox, Rabbi Moshe Klein and Rabbi Levi Garelik stepped into the mess, trying to create a Kollel environment, and they partially succeeded, though their actions were consistently derailed, as money that was donated to Machne Israel, Inc. didn’t find its way to the Kollel Yungeleit.
Last year, Yungeleit were notified that they will no longer see any payment, and many have made Kollel a second priority, coming and leaving as they wish, and the general atmosphere changed. The Kollel building became populated with Bochurim from 770, who chose the quieter and more comfortable setting for their studies.
Last month, Rabbi Fox secured a large commitment from a local donor, to sponsor a certain amount per month, to start paying the same $300 monthly stipend.
Upon hearing this, Rabbi Yosef Avraham Halevi Heller, the Rosh Kollel, recommended that his son be brought in to help manage the Kollel, and try to secure a larger commitment from other donors. The son was wildly successful in his endeavor, and secured a commitment for a pilot program of 50 Yungeleit to receive $1,000 dollars each, in line with the payment at smaller boutique Kollels in Manhattan.
Starting tomorrow, Rosh Chodesh Shvat, Kollel Yungeleit who wish to participate in the program, will have to start coming on time to every Seder, and need to request permission before leaving during study hours. Those who will keep the majority of the Sdorim will receive the monthly stipend.
A source close to the new Kollel management has told a ChabadInfo.com reporter, that this is a pilot program, limited to 50 Yungeleit. However, after it is proven a success, the donor will donate larger sums, allowing a greater number of Kollel Yungeleit to study in peace, for a full year, as stipulated by the Rebbe.