Tuesday, September 28, 2010

When Shmuley’s Right…. He's Right

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is one of those people I truly have ambivalent feelings about. On the one hand I more often agree with him than not. He is a great communicator. And his message is often my message.

On the other hand his fawning over the Lubavitcher Rebbe as though he were the Messiah (No - I don’t think he’s a Meshichist – it’s just an expression) is a big turn off. Nor do I like his fawning all over celebrities. His relationship with Michael Jackson for example was downright embarrassing.

I’m not sure how I feel about his custom of inviting non Jewish celebrities over for Shabbos meals almost every week either. What exactly is he trying to accomplish with that other than buying their affection? How does that enhance his Shabbos table?

His book ‘Kosher Sex’ is an embarrassment as well.

And though I understood his point his fawning praise of Noah Feldman who married out of the faith was grossly out of place.

It is almost as though his life’s goal is self promotion.

But… I have to give Rabbi Boteach his due. When he’s right – he’s usually very right. That is the case in his latest op-ed in the Jerusalem Post. Here are the opening paragraphs:

Come to Israel for Succot and there are many things you’ll see at night on Rehov Ben-Yehuda, Jerusalem’s premiere recreational thoroughfare. You’ll experience outstanding cafés and mouth-watering restaurants, families with strollers and tourists buying souvenirs. Wait till later and you’ll see American teenagers taking over the street, many of them drunk.

You’ll see friends guiding their inebriated colleagues home, navigating broken glass and discarded bottles. But one thing you will likely not see are their yeshiva and program heads, those responsible for their supervision. Yes, the kids are alone, away from mom and dad and away from nearly any kind of responsible supervision.

Welcome to the Israeli-American religious-industrial complex, where a year abroad for many American Jewish youths means enrolling in a program that costs their parents over $20,000 and is supposed to enhance their religious commitment, but in reality is just a year-long opportunity to drink and behave like hooligans.

Let me be fair. There are many American Jewish youths who avail themselves of the opportunity to study the great Jewish texts and immerse themselves in serious study and religious reflection. They emerge immeasurably enriched by the experience, and infinitely more attached to the Jewish state. But for the hundreds who gather nightly on Ben-Yehuda, the idea of spiritual uplift is about as distant as Jerusalem is from Malibu.

I could not agree more.

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