He’s a student of the publishing industry with hands-on experience running his own book company; he’s a knowledgeable businessman with years of experience in finance; he’s a mathematician comfortable with probability and statistics; he’s a blogger on the Internet and a published writer; and he’s an Orthodox rabbi, with expertise in many areas of Torah, including the intricate laws of kosher.
But above all, he’s a student – Rabbi Gil Student, the newly hired Managing Editor at OU Press, the Orthodox Union’s foray into book publishing, which got off to a big start this year with “The Seder Night: An Exalted Evening,” the Haggadah which was found on thousands of seder tables this past Passover. The Haggadah is based on the teachings of Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, the Rav, whose commentaries have so far been the focus of OU Press’ activities.
While primarily a rabbinic coordinator for OU Kosher, Rabbi Student was hired by Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO of OU Kosher and General Editor of OU Press, to also plunge into the day-to-day management of OU Press, working alongside Rabbi Genack and Rabbi Simon Posner, Executive Editor, under the leadership of Chairman Julius Berman.
With Rabbi Posner’s experience as a corporate lawyer before joining OU Press and Rabbi Student’s background as a publisher, Rabbi Genack has assembled a strong team to make OU Press a major player in the world of Jewish publishing. Rabbi Genack himself is a former student and major interpreter of the Rav and Editor of the Mesorah Journal, based on the teachings of the Rav.
Rabbi Student comes to the OU from Yashar Books, Inc., a small publishing company of scholarly Jewish books, which he founded in 2004. He supervised all aspects of the business, publishing numerous books that garnered wide attention from readers and the media.
A Busy Day at the Office:
Calling on this background, at OU Press Rabbi Student will be engaged in acquisitions; project management; management of partner relationships; as well as the various components of production – editing, proofreading, typesetting, negotiating with authors, design, printing, distribution and marketing.
He will also pay close attention to finances. Rabbi Student, who graduated from Yeshiva University with a degree in mathematics, has 13 years of experience as a financial risk analyst with specialties in actuarial science, modeling, capital planning, and credit. He performed these roles at prominent banks and insurance companies. While working at his most recent position as Vice President of Financial Planning and Analysis at a large bond insurer, he was running Yashar Books at the same time.
Rabbi Student declared, “Rabbi Genack was looking for ways in which I could help OU Press maximize its potential, first through purely technical expertise, but also through marketing experience – both in traditional ways and through the web – and from my general corporate skills. My blog experience on Hirhurim has also given me credibility for publicity on the Internet, which is now an important component of any attempt to reach the public.”
According to Rabbi Genack, “Rabbi Student has both the experience in publishing and shared vision with the OU that we were looking for in someone to join the OU Press leadership team. The OU Press will fill a vital need in the Jewish community, and Rabbi Student, with his background, skills and talent, will be instrumental in helping the OU Press realize its full potential.”
Coming in 2010 at OU Press:
Right now Rabbi Student is devoting his attention to the next projects involving the commentaries of the Rav, to be published in 2010: Kinot (elegies) for Tisha B’Av; a siddur (prayer book), certain to be a big seller; and a bentcher, a book of blessings and traditional songs. Rabbis Student, Genack and Posner envision expanding the range of OU books beyond the Rav, seeking what Rabbi Student called “quality Torah scholarship from a variety of scholars who speak to today’s Jews.”
In addition, he is in the process of developing ideas for a wide range of books, including: commentaries on classic texts from a contemporary viewpoint; guides for living a Jewish life; parenting (a specialty of the OU); understanding and embracing Jewish ritual; cookbooks; and, of course, kashrut. OU Kosher is now developing volumes on kosher law, providing what Rabbi Student calls “information on what consumers need to know about the rules and current industrial practices. It’s not necessarily Kosher 101, but for those who practice kashrut, it will provide deeper understanding.”
At the same time Rabbi Student will not be closing down Yashar entirely, but will be using it for only limited projects, such as his own writings, of which the first book is scheduled for publication this summer.
Rabbi Student and his wife of 15 years, Miriam, live in the Marine Park section of Brooklyn with their four children.