Defense of the Talmud
Gil Ofer Student (born August 8, 1972) is the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union's Jewish Action magazine, and former Managing Editor of OU Press, and an Orthodox Jewish blogger who writes about the interface between different facets of Judaism, specifically Orthodox Judaism and Modern Orthodox Judaism. He is an ordained non-pulpit serving Orthodox rabbi who serves as the Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America, a member of the Editorial Committee of the Orthodox Union's Jewish Action magazine, and a member of the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America.
Student was raised in Teaneck, New Jersey, where his parents still live. In his youth, he attended a Conservative Jewish synagogue. He is an alumnus of Solomon Schechter elementary school and Frisch School, and a baal teshuva. A 1994 graduate of Yeshiva College, Yeshiva University, Gil Student is listed in the 2005 alumni directory as a rabbi and a quantitative analyst who works in financial reinsurance and lives in the Marine Park section of Brooklyn, New York and has served as president of Khilah Marine Park synagogue, led by Rabbi Baruch Pesach Mendelson. He is married and has four children and two grandchildren.
Student owns and operates a small Jewish publishing house, Yashar Books, that, in addition to traditional Orthodox scholarly works, distributes the writings of Orthodox thinkers who defy the accepted norms of publications in the Haredi world; the latter include works that were previously distributed by prominent publishers such as Feldheim.
His publishing company has undertaken to distribute the works of Rabbi Natan Slifkin whose books were banned by many Haredi rabbis as well as other works that are not openly approved by the Haredi mainstream rabbinate. In explaining his defense of Slifkin and his willingness to publish Slifkin's books, Student wrote in The Jewish Press, "The Jewish community is no stranger to conflict. Some controversies, however, transcend their local concern and reverberate in ways originally unintended. I believe we have witnessed such an event with the recent controversy surrounding three books about Torah and science by Rabbi Natan (Nosson) Slifkin. The bans promulgated on his books have come to represent more than just disapproval of those specific works; they have come to signify the lack of centralized rabbinic authority in our globalized world and the increased empowerment of the individual afforded by the Internet."
Defending the Talmud
Student has written defending the Talmud against those who claim that it defames gentiles or Jesus. On the Internet, one of Student's sites called "Talmud: The Real Truth About The Talmud" states its objective:
There are many lies circulating the internet about the Jewish Talmud. These allegations are supported by "direct quotations" from the Talmud that are frequently wrong or taken out of context. However, most people lack the scholarly background to verify these claims. Most people have no way of knowing that these accusation are false and malicious. What we are attempting is to demonstrate in detail how these accusations are both wrong and intentionally misleading. We are trying to show to the world the real truth about the Talmud.
Key areas discussed with relevant sources include:
About the Talmud
Alleged racism in the Talmud
Talmud's view of Jesus' personalities.
Immorality in the Talmud
Position on Modern and Haredi Orthodoxy
Though his stance in the Slifkin controversy put him at odds with much of the Haredi world, Student nevertheless opposes many trends within Modern Orthodoxy, especially regarding women's issues (e.g. women's prayer groups), taking a particularly strong stance against the now-defunct Edah organization; and other groups.
In his personal life, Student remains involved with both the Haredi and Modern Orthodox worlds in Brooklyn. According to Student, "I live in a moderate Haredi neighborhood, attend Haredi synagogues, send my children to moderate Haredi schools but still maintain professional and friendly relations with the Modern Orthodox world."
Critique of Lubavitch messianism
He has written on Chabad messianism in opposition to the claim by some Chabad Hasidim that the last Lubavitcher Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, may have been the long-awaited Jewish Messiah (i.e. the Moshiach).
He has received both criticism and praise for his self-published book Can The Rebbe Be Moshiach? described as "Proofs from Gemara, Midrash, and Rambam that the Lubavitcher Rebbe cannot be Moshiach".
In an interview with The Jewish Press in September 2009, in response to a question if he can talk about his opinions on the Lubavitcher rebbe not being Moshiach, he replied,
I actually prefer not to. People get very offended by it. I wrote the book for ba'alei teshuvah to let them know that there's more than one perspective on the issue. I have no interest in fighting with Lubavitch.