As a Knesset Committee debates whether the 2011 state budget will include stipends for full-time kollel students, one rabbi wants the MKs to remember an important message.

“A kollel student feels like he has a responsibility to the Jewish state, and he feels like he is contributing his share,” said Rabbi Yaakov Sitruk, the director of 12- year-old Aleif Ladorot institution in the capital that has 10 haredi kollel students.

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The average kollel student receives between NIS 2,500 and NIS 3,000 per month, including both government stipends and donations from abroad. This is for full-time students who study at least eight hours per day.

“There are a good few years where they live very, very simply,” said Sitruk.

“They really don’t have anything to live on. Sometimes the parents help, but they can’t always. It’s really hard, but they’re ready for this...

Being a Torah student doesn’t come easily.

“I know there’s a big difference of opinion; some people who think they should only study a little bit, but they are part of the nation of Israel, and it’s a really meaningful part,” Sitruk said. He noted that many kollels hold special prayer sessions during national emergencies, such as times of war.

Contrary to what people say about them, kollel students aren’t lazy, he insisted, and most of them will eventually enter the work force.

He pointed to the slow but steady rise of haredi colleges, which allow haredim to learn professions while still having time to study Torah.

“I know that from the outside it seems like they’re not contributing to the community,” Sitruk said, “but they’re contributing in a different way.”

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