New York judge rules 'kollel' studies equated to employment

Social services department fighting ruling that state's members of Jewish religious study centers are eligible for child care payments from county.

Kollel [File] (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Kollel [File]
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
A New York administrative hearing judge has ruled that students who receive stipends for research and answering questions in Jewish religious study centers are eligible in one of the state's counties for child care allocations.
According to local media reports, the Rockland County Social Services Department (DSS) has requested a re-hearing, arguing that the recipients of the some $50,000 in payments for child care are not kollel employees, rather adult students who are paid stipends during their full-time, intensive study of Jewish texts.
Unlike yeshivas, the students in a kollel are all married men.
Social services officials also argued that the handful of kollels in the area file the payments in line with student tax exemptions, and do not deduct US federal payroll taxes from the funds as do most employees.
"These are full-time students who study for hours a day and they say they have to be available for a certain number of hours to answer questions from people," the New York-based Journal News site quoted DSS Commissioner Susan Sherwood as saying.
"For us, they are not employees. My thought is it just doesn't pass the smell test," she said.
"If this is not an abuse, it's clearly a misuse," Sherwood said.
She added that at the least, the entity listed as the employer needed to deduct federal payroll tax.