Resolved to finally tackle the ever growing mountain of bills accumulating on the kitchen table, David opened the first envelope and looked down at how much he owed. Then he opened another, and then another. Before long, reality set in. It was a matter of simple arithmetic: his monthly expenses far exceeded his income.

When David continued to study Torah full time after he got married some years ago, his financial obligations were minimal and he was able to learn Torah in peace. But over the years, things changed. Baruch Hashem, his family had grown and the cost of running even a humble household outpaced his monthly kollel stipend and miscellaneous tutoring income. To make matters worse, just days before, David’s father informed him that he could no longer offer the monetary support that he had been providing until now.

“It looks like I’m going to have to find a way to support my family,” David whispered to himself.

He began to think about the experience and training that he would need to enter the business world, and a sense of apprehension welled up in his throat.  His mind began to race, as the realization bombarded him. “Without any formal training or professional skills, and with no knowledge of the business world, who will hire me?”

From the Study Hall to the Cubicle

Like David, many young men in our community face a similar dilemma at a certain point in their lives. Over the course of the past several decades, the Syrian-Sephardic community has experienced unprecedented growth in Torah, a welcome development that has resulted in, hundreds of highly motivated young men choosing to join kollel and dedicate their days to Torah study.  Eventually, however, as their financial obligations increase, some of these young men may feel it’s time to enter the business world in order to support their growing families.

After spending years poring over sacred texts in the warm embrace of the bet midrash, venturing out into the business world can present numerous challenges. Firstly, especially in today’s fiercely competitive job market, employers generally look to hire individuals who have completed at least some level of business training and acquired basic office skills so they can integrate smoothly into the company’s workflow. And with the corporate world becoming increasingly fast-paced and technology driven, some technical skills training is often a prerequisite to even entry-level positions. Many young men who have devoted their formative years to kollel study have not had the opportunity to develop business acumen or receive a professional-oriented education, resulting in a sorely underdeveloped repertoire of marketable skills. These students urgently need to shore up their skillset if they are to make a successful transition from kollel to corporate life.

Preparing for Life After Kollel

Professional Career Services (PCS), a project of Agudath Israel of America, is a program aimed at easing the transition into the working world, as well as working men in entry level positions. Over the last eight years, under the guidance of prominent educator Mr. Daniel Soloff, PCS has successfully trained hundreds of kollel students in Lakewood, New Jersey who have journeyed into business in order to support their families. PCS offers job counseling, job placements, career courses and business preparation courses for kollel students who, due to increasing financial demands, have decided to begin working, either part-time or full-time, or seek to develop their own businesses.

Now, in collaboration with several businessmen and organizations in the Syrian-Sephardic community, Mr. Soloff has decided to utilize the Brooklyn branch of PCS to offer a program especially tailored to meet the needs of young kollel men from our own community who may wish to enter the business world. Prominent community Rabbis and Rosh Kollelim, some of whom are facing enormous pressure to raise funds to support the growing number of kollel students, have expressed support for the launch of PCS for Syrian-Sephardic students, viewing it as a vital step toward ensuring the long-term financial viability of these kollel families.

PCS courses are given in the evening in order to accommodate kollel schedules and ensure that they will not interfere with the student’s Torah learning. Participants attend classes three or four evenings a week for 20 weeks, learning essential business skills such as leadership, salesmanship, warehouse management, real estate management and accounting. They are also taught the procedures surrounding hiring, firing, importing, exporting, insurance, banking and finance, as well as how to use computer programs such as Microsoft Word, Excel and Quickbooks.

PCS offers indispensable knowledge that will help bridge the gap between the learning and working worlds, fortifying kollel students with the tools they need to increase their business potential and help ensure their family’s financial stability. PCS will be holding an open house at Bnei Yosef, 1616 Ocean Parkway, on November19 at 8PM. For more information about PCS, please email ma@nj.pcsjobs.org or call 732-905-9700 ext 606.