The Great Religious Challenge

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by R. Gil Student

Too often, rabbis don’t get it. Having spent their entire lives enveloped in a welcoming Jewish environment, they do not fully grasp the challenges facing their congregants in university and the workplace. We sometimes hear platitudes that were only barely true when coined but now lack any connection to reality. For example, it may once have been true as a general rule that gentile employers are more respectful of Orthodox Jews’ religious needs than non-religious Jewish employers, but generations have passed since this cliche represented a general truth. However, a rabbi who hears this from his rebbe in yeshiva will faithfully trust his teacher. How is he to know any differently?

Many rabbis recognize this limitation and toil to overcome it. Just as with any halachic issue, they ask careful questions and speak to different people to ascertain the facts. After years of serving the public, sensitive rabbis learn a great deal about the personal challenges that contemporary Jews face. There is another avenue for this information.

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About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Editor of, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student has served two terms on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and currently serves as the Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He serves on the Editorial Boards of Jewish Action magazine, the Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society and the Achieve Journal of Behavioral Health, Religion & Community, as well as the Board of OU Press. He has published five English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

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