Monday, June 23, 2008

Age discrimination in Kollels?

I have to say this would never have occurred to me. I would never have thought that there is a phenomenon of age discrimination in kollels. I thought it was only in the secular world that there is a culture of youth. It seems that the Charedi world has been affected as well.

Last week's Mishpacha magazine (in Hebrew) has a long article detailing the problem.

It seems that Avreichim over the age of 40 have a very hard time finding a kollel to learn in. Some of the reasons given are:
1. It is assumed that a young person in his 20's has more zeal for learning then someone who has been learning already for 20+ years.
2. Younger people are less busy and have more time to devote to learning. Someone who is 25 has a few little kids and not s many financial worries. Someone who is 45 probably has 8-10 kids that are older and therefore he is busy trying to marry them off and deal with their problems. He mostly probably is in finanial trouble as a result. As the old saying goes "little kids little problems big kids big problems".
3. The Roshei Kollel feel that they will have more influence on a younger person. They believe that they can have a major influence on the דרך הלימוד of someone who is in their early 20's. However someone in their 40's is already set in their ways.
4. The Roshei Kollel feel awkward about having someone in the kollel their age or older. They also feel that the person will probably not follow the sedarim in the kollel and will learn what they want.
5. Someone who is still just sitting and learing in kollel in their 40's is not going to become a Rosh Yeshiva, Rosh Kollel etc. The fact that they haven't moved up shows that they are not so successful.

These are all stereotypes but there is some truth in all of them. The article points out that the reasons listed above apply mostly to small kollels. Therefore it suggests that older Avreichim should start learning in a big kollel where these issues are not nearly as problematic.

8 comments:

BrooklynWolf said...

Regarding point 5, I'm kind of curious: what's the point of Kollel? Is it to produce Roshei Kollel, or is it to increase the amount of learning for it's own sake?

If the former, then Kollel learning is clearly not for everyone and we should restrict entrance to the Kollel to those who show a clear potential toward becoming communal leaders. Everyone else should be told to go out and get a job and come back for a night seder.

If the latter, then who cares if the older avreichim won't become roshei yeshiva? Allow them to learn because they want to learn and we want to increase learning.

The Wolf

bluke said...

It's a what will the neighbors say type of thing. No Rosh Kollel wants his kollel to be thought of as a place for average learners to learn. Everyone wants to be in a top institution.

BrooklynWolf said...

It's bad enough when people run their own homes on a "what will the neighbors say" policy. Are we really doing this with institutions as important as kollelim?

The Wolf

Beisrunner said...

What does it say about charedi Judaism if the institutions it considers most important are run according to such selfish and superficial criteria?

mother in israel said...

Wolf--I believe it's worse to run your home that way. A kollel has to be concerned about its image, in order to attract talmidim and donations.

Mississippi Fred MacDowell said...

>I thought it was only in the secular world that there is a culture of youth.

What do you think the intense focus on yeshivos, in general, are--when these are places primarily for young people? If all a society focused on were Harvard and Yale; indeed, if people referred to themselves as Collegiate (=Yeshivish), then wouldn't that society be thought of as somewhat youth oriented?

pondering said...

i am familiar with at least one similar example - the Dallas kollel. My friend was not accepted since his kids were older > 3 years. rosh kollel wanted youngermans who have younger kids so that youngerman will be putting more effort in becoming a part of kehilla instead of worrying about his kids. i guess that people worry less about very little kids as opposed to older ones.

Garnel Ironheart said...

Of course people are worried about what the neighbours will think.

The Rosh Kollel is worried people will think he runs a meeting place for bench warmers if he doesn't attract "young talent".

The kollel guy's wife is worried that her friends will think she married an am ha'aretz if he stops going and learning all day.