Cabinet Slashes Kollel Welfare

The government limits income supplement payments for kollel families, while increasing the budget for needy university students.

Maayana Miskin , | updated: 7:23 PM

Kollel students
Kollel students
Israel news photo: file

The Cabinet voted Sunday to limit "income supplement" state stipends for families in which the father learns Torah in a 'kollel' - a full-time yeshiva for adults. Currently, an estimated 10,000 eligible families in which the father studies a in kollel receive an income supplement  state stipends of 1,040 shekels a month; the income supplement stipend is also given to more than 200,000 Israelis with low income.

Instead of receiving the payments indefinitely, most men studying in kollel will now receive the extra funds for only five years. During the fifth year, termed the “integration year,” they will be given 75% of the usual amount.

An estimated 2,000 kollel students who qualify for the support payments will be allowed to receive the payments indefinitely.

Fourteen ministers voted in favor of the measure, eight opposed it, and three abstained. Those who were in support included every minister from Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel Our Home), while Labor ministers opposed the measure and those from Shas abstained.

The bill will also increase government support for needy university students. Fifty million shekels will be provided each year to help struggling students.

The vote followed a High Court ruling in June 2010 that found the long-standing policy of allowing kollel students to apply for income supplement payments while university students could not do the same to be discriminatory.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu praised his cabinet and the inter-ministerial team that formulated the bill, saying, “These are the first steps that any government has taken on this issue. Many governments have talked about it – we are doing something.”

The National Student Union, which had filed suit against the payments to kollel students, expressed satisfaction, saying the bill was “good” and would “increase solidarity” in Israeli society.

MKs from the opposition party Kadima, however, were critical of the measure. MK Yoel Hasson termed the bill “another of Netanyahu's tricks” and said, “Netanyahu is lying to students and IDF soldiers, and is buying hareidi support at the expense of the Israeli public.”