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Mar 6, 2008

The dollar is still worth 4NIS in some circles...

There has been plenty written about the recent declarations by the Gedolim for a certain Tzedaka organization raising money and freezing the dollar-shekel exchange rate at 4nis = $1. This is despite, and because of, the fact that the real exchange rate has been fluctuating so much recently, and has been practically in a free fall, that they felt the need to do this for stability.

They first declared that all payouts would be at the exchange rate of 4/1. Then they declared all collections would also work using the exchange rate of 4/1.

Now they have taken another step.

Kollels generally pay the avreichim a monthly stipend based on the dollar. The fall of the dollar has greatly hurt them, as they are now bringing home much less than before (and while it affects and hurts all of us if we lose a few shekels in our monthly salary, it is much more acute when your stipend is so little to start with and then you lose a few shekels because of the falling exchange rate).

There has recently been an increase in the delay of payments of the stipends, and many avreichim are suffering because of it. Donors are giving less, partly because of the economy and partly because the holidays are coming. Purim and Pesach are holidays where people get hit up by lots of money for lots of different organizations, and the donors have cut back donations in anticipation of the upcoming holiday season beginning soon.

Rav Michel Yehuda Lefkowitz has declared that all kollels under his auspices should freeze the exchange rate at 4/1. He said, "The financial situation of the avreichim is very difficult and we have to ease their burden as much as possible."

While this only solves one aspect of the problem (the fact that the monthly stipend is getting less and less but not the fact that donations are not coming in and monthly payouts have frequently been late), at least it is something.

Rav Steinman was approached about what to do about the financial crisis the kollels have found themselves in. Rav Steinman has said that nowadays all tzedaka should be given for supporting Torah study ahead of other needs (I am sure the poor are happy to hear that).

Rav Steinman said that "there are some wealthy donors who limit their donations with the claim that one is not allowed to donate more than 1/5th of his possessions. Rav Steinman says the claim is false - the Chafetz Chaim explains that statement that it only refers to regular, basic tzedaka. But when supporting Torah study, one can and should give with no limitations."

Rav Steinman even added that the donors should be told that he will take their sin (of giving too much) upon him, as long as they give. He also added that if all the gvirim would give even the proper maaser (1/10th) that they need to give, and not the 1/5th, then all the kollels financial problems would be solved and the Torah world would be supported properly.

I still do not understand why this is all calculated based on the dollar and not just use a standard shekel based stipend.


  1. It's not just the chareidim.

    Our office recently instituted that all bills to Israeli clients will be calculated based on an exchange rate of 4.2NIS/Dollar. (All of our rates are given in dollars, and converted into shekels when debit notes are issued.) Basically, it amounts to converting to a shekel-based, as opposed to a dollar-based, system (until, of course, the rate climbs up again). It seems that the chareidim are basically doing the same thing.

  2. Some yeshivos are also asking parents to pay tuition according to 4 shekels or more per dollar. Of course when the dollar was 4.80 no institution lowered the tuition. Actually the tuition in dollars was already raised in the past when the shekel was 4.2 or 4.

  3. I think it has to do with the fact that most of these kollels are getting their support from the US. So If I'm suposrting 10 kollelniks with my $100/month, before they were getting 400 NIS/month, now they are only getting 360 NIS/month (or whatever the rate is today).

    IMO it appears that that is why the kollels are now paying late, b/c before they had my $100 to pay 10 guys, now they need $111 to pay those same 10 guys, without getting any more.

    Coupled with like you mentioned the slowdown, this can become very problematic.

    You can chalk up having no money to being one of the new nisyonos of learning in kollel. (I thought that was an old one, oh well).

  4. Lazer - I think you get the honor of having written the "Comment of the Day"...
    I love it - "You can chalk up having no money to being one of the new nisyonos of learning in kollel."


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