Television host, sex columnist and Orthodox rabbi Shmuley Boteach is no stranger to controversy, but this week he added his voice to a growing chorus of Orthodox Jews who believe that their religious community has to take a look in the mirror in the wake of the New Jersey money-laundering scandal. In an article in the Jerusalem Post, he writes:
We Orthodox have no one but ourselves to blame. We are often “religious” without being spiritual, prayerful without being humble and ritually precise without displaying the same punctiliousness in business.
Perhaps the most unexpected part of the piece comes when Boteach takes the opportunity to wantonly unload on the Chabad-Lubavich religious community in which he was trained. Boteach says he still raises his children in the Chabad spirit, but he explains how they pushed him out:
In 1993 I was ordered by the leadership of Chabad UK to dismiss all non-Jewish members of our Oxford University student society. I refused because the Rebbe (who had just died) loved non-Jews and regularly reached out to them. Chabad fired me.
Boteach implies that Chabad representatives “preach hate” by calling for a distance from the non-Jewish world, and goes on to criticize Chabad’s representative in Washington, D.C., Levi Shemtov, who, he says:
wrote on a super-secret global Chabad Web site that I “desecrate” any Chabad House I visit and should not be invited to speak. I shudder to think that a man of such extreme opinions is Chabad’s representative to the US government.
Shemtov, who sounded surprised by the attack, told the Forward: “I did not write what he implies; he misconstrued words into a sentence of his own making to imply inaccurately that I condemned him personally.”
It’s not entirely clear how Boteach’s criticism of Chabad relates to his larger discussion of Orthodoxy. He does seem to say that if more non-Jews read his book “Kosher Sex,” they might see the inherent goodness of Orthodox Judaism.
Maybe, but then again, maybe not.