Shmuel "Shmuley" Boteach (שמואל (שמולי) בוטח, /ˈʃmuːli boʊˈteɪ.ək/ SHMOO-lee boh-TAY-ək; born November 19, 1966) is an American Orthodox Jewish rabbi, author, TV host and public speaker. Boteach is the author of 30 books, including Kosher Sex: A Recipe for Passion and Intimacy, published in 1999, and Kosher Jesus, published in 2012. His outspokenness has earned him praise and criticism; Newsweek magazine named him one of the 50 most influential rabbis in the United States three years in a row, including sixth in 2010. He resides in Englewood, New Jersey.
In 1988, Boteach was sent at age 22 by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson as a Chabad-Lubavitch shaliach (emissary) to Oxford, England, where he served as rabbi to Oxford's students for 11 years and during that time founded the L'Chaim Society. Under Boteach's leadership the Oxford L'Chaim Society grew to be the second-largest student organization in Oxford's history, with a membership that included over 5,000 non-Jews. A dispute erupted when Boteach was asked to remove some non-Jewish students from the society, including future Senator Cory Booker, but refused. Later that year Boteach won the "Preacher of the Year" Award from The Times.
In 2008 Boteach was named ninth on Newsweek's list of the "Top 50 Rabbis in America", and in 2009 he was named seventh. In 2010 Boteach was listed on the Newsweek list at number six.
Boteach has faced widespread criticism from fellow rabbis across his career, especially following the release of his book Kosher Jesus. It was denounced as "heresy" by some rabbis. Immanuel Schochet, a Canadian rabbi, stated that the book "poses a tremendous threat to the Jewish community."
Boteach also faced criticism by the Jewish community for his views on love and sex in his book Kosher Sex: A Recipe for Passion and Intimacy, stating that lust is more important than love. He has said "lust is the pinnacle of holiness," and "if you put love and lust together, love stands no chance."
In 2006 Boteach hosted the television series Shalom in the Home. The series, which ran for two seasons on the TLC network, was a reality show in which Boteach counseled families and gave advice about relationships. In 2007, he was honored by the National Fatherhood Initiative with their most prestigious award for his efforts on Shalom in the Home and promoting the importance of a caring father in the contemporary family. He writes two syndicated columns, and is a frequent op-ed contributor to The Wall Street Journal, The Jerusalem Post and other newspapers. He speaks extensively in the United States, Israel, and other countries.
Boteach hosted a weekly radio show on WABC called The Shmuley Show. He has made numerous guest appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show and other television programs, including The Dr. Phil Show as a relationship and marriage expert The Dr. Oz Show, and others. Boteach hosted his own show on the Oprah XM Satellite Radio Network and his writings and quotes are published on Oprah.com website.
In 2014, Boteach was a featured cast member in an episode for the Sundance Channel's Dream School series.
He is founder of This World: The Values Network, an international organization dedicated to advancing universal Jewish values in the media and culture, and to affirming the Jewish people as a "light unto the nations".
In the 1990s, Boteach became a friend and unofficial spiritual advisor to Michael Jackson. Some Jewish commentators were critical. "Consorting with Michael Jackson might get Shmuley's name in the papers, but it's doubtful it will really encourage Jews to go to synagogue on Friday night", wrote Benjamin Soskis in Slate. Boteach was a vocal supporter of Jackson and "dismissive of suggestions that Jackson's relationships with children have been anything other than wholesome. Why would anyone believe those charges? They said anyone who spends that amount of time with kids has to be sick. Well, that's not an indictment of Michael Jackson, that's an indictment of our society!" He further stated: "I was friendly with Michael for a year before anyone knew about it. I did my own investigation. He never had sex with the child he made the settlement with, and there are no others."
In 2001 Boteach was involved in "Heal the Kids" or "Time for Kids", a charity founded by Jackson to encourage parents to spend more time with their children. Jackson and Boteach had a falling-out in 2002.
Following Michael Jackson's death, Boteach published The Michael Jackson Tapes, a series of taped conversations he had with Jackson. Boteach said it was Jackson's wish that the conversations be published: "This book is being published because it was Michael Jackson's desperate wish that it be so," he wrote in the prologue to the book.
Views and opinions
Boteach wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed column on homosexuality that it is "akin to the prohibition against lighting fire on the Sabbath or eating bread during Passover; there is nothing immoral about it, but it violates the divine will.... I am in favor of gay civil unions rather than marriage," he wrote in an in the '.
Boteach has opened a dialogue with Christians, and specifically with Messianic Jews, who are considered to be apostates by most Jews. In 2008 he debated with Michael Brown, a leader of the Messianic Jews, on whether belief in Jesus is compatible with Judaism, and in his book Kosher Jesus he depicts Jesus as "a Jewish patriot murdered by Rome for his struggle on behalf of his people...". These positions have drawn opposition from many in the orthodox establishment, particularly from within the Chabad sect to which Boteach belongs. Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet, a leading British rabbi and a rival of Boteach's, called Boteach's attempts to reach out to Messianic Jews "self-delusional", and Rabbi Immanuel Schochet of Toronto, Ytzchak Schochet's father, banned the book to Orthodox Jewish readers. "It is forbidden for anyone to buy or read this book," he said in an interview.
Boteach is known for his flamboyance and self-promotion. In a comment he later described as only having been sarcastic, he was reported as saying "God gave 10 commandments at Sinai, and the 11th commandment, which they expunged but which has come down orally, is 'Thou shalt do anything for publicity and recognition.'"
Boteach is supportive of Israel, and critical of American policy towards the country. Boteach has argued that the Obama administration is "bullying" Israel, arguing that U.S. Middle Eastern policy is "scandalous" and "disgusting". He is also supportive of Israeli settlements, including the Hebron settlement, the residents of which he characterizes as marked by a particular "warmth, friendliness and hospitality" and views as being "liberated from hatred."
Boteach was criticized by a variety of Jewish organizations for an ad placed in the New York Times which read "Susan Rice has a blind spot: Genocide", and that her action has "injected a degree of partisanship" that is "destructive of the fabric of the relationship" between the US and Israel. Rice had criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for agreeing to speak to Congress about Iran's nuclear program without coordinating with the Obama administration. Boteach apologized quoting that the disagreement was over policy and he did not intend a personal attack. Speaking to CNN, Boteach said the purpose of the ad was to bring attention to his perception that the United States government has ignored genocides in the past, and continues to do so.
2012 Congressional run
Boteach ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in the 2012 elections. He supports gay marriage and recommended making family counseling tax deductible. He received the endorsement of then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in April. Boteach won the Republican primary for New Jersey's 9th congressional district seat on June 5, and lost to 8th District Representative Bill Pascrell (whose old district was redistricted) in the November election, by a margin of 73.6% to 25.4%.
- Kosher Sex, 2010
- The God Debates, Part I: A Spirited Discussion (DVD; debate with Christopher Hitchens; Host: Mark Derry; Commentary: Miles Redfield), 2010
- Kosher Lust: Love Is Not the Answer (2014)
- The Fed-Up Man of Faith: Challenging God in the Face of Suffering and Tragedy (2013)
- The Modern Guide to Judaism (2012)
- Kosher Jesus (2012)
- 10 Conversations You Need to Have with Yourself: A Powerful Plan for Spiritual Growth and Self-Improvement (2011)
- Honoring the Child Spirit: Inspiration and Learning from Our Children (2010)
- Renewal: A Guide to the Values-Filled Life (2010)
- The Blessings of Enough: Rejecting Material Greed, Embracing Spiritual Hunger (2010)
- The Michael Jackson Tapes: A Tragic Icon Reveals His Soul in Intimate Conversation (2009)
- The Broken American Male: And How to Fix Him (2008)
- The Kosher Sutra (2009)
- Shalom in the Home (2007)
- Parenting with Fire: Lighting up the Family With Passion and Inspiration (2006)
- 10 Conversations You Need to Have With Your Children (2006)
- Hating Women: America's Hostile Campaign Against the Fairer Sex (2005)
- Face Your Fear: Living with Courage in an Age of Caution (2004)
- The Private Adam: Becoming a Hero in a Selfish Age (2003)
- Judaism For Everyone: Renewing Your Life Through the Vibrant Lessons of the Jewish Faith (2002)
- Kosher Adultery: Seduce and Sin with your Spouse (2002)
- Why Can't I Fall in Love: A 12-Step Program (2001)
- Confessions of a Psychic and a Rabbi, (2000; also called The Psychic and the Rabbi: A Remarkable Correspondence, 2001, with Uri Geller)
- Dating Secrets of the Ten Commandments (2000)
- Kosher Emotions (2000)
- An Intelligent Person's Guide to Judaism (1999)
- Kosher Sex: A Recipe for Passion and Intimacy (1999)
- Wrestling with the Divine (1995)
- Moses of Oxford: A Jewish Vision of a University and Its Life, Volume One and Two (1994)
- The Wolf Shall Lie with the Lamb—The Messiah in Hasidic Thought (1993)
- Wisdom, Understanding, and Knowledge (1993)
- Dreams (1991)