I’ve always had the most profound respect for Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, the writer of Kosher Sex. The former Lubavitch shaliach to Oxford and founder of the L’Chaim society definitely understood outreach – his central thesis was get non-Jews interested in Judaism and then the Jews will follow. More than a decade before the Kabbalah Center expanded on his star f*cking technique, Shmuley was already running around with the likes of Boy George, Diego Maradonna, Dennis Rodman, Mikhail Gorbachev, Deepak Chopra etc. Excerpts from Kosher Sex, despite being (almost) completely halachically based, appeared in Playboy. But not all celebrity associations play out well in the press – witness Shmuley’s improbable sponsorship of a “… [Michael] Jackson-led charity dedicated, unbelievably enough, to ensuring that children receive appropriate amounts of affection.”
I know. Pretty whacked. Nobody can make stuff like this up.
Well, looks like the tide has turned.
Shmuley’s recently published a book titled The Private Adam: Becoming a Hero in a Selfish Age described by his booking agency as a work that “critiques the American celebrity culture.” Then he attacked Madonna and the Kabbalah Center and modern Jewry:
Madonna was about to launch her American concert tour, and the New York Post revealed how she would sing Kabbala-inspired songs while “simulating sex with a female tango dancer … You know your religion is up a creek when your people are facing mortal danger … and the most famous representative of your mystical tradition is simulating lesbian sex with scantily clad pregnant dancers … Earth to Phillip Berg: Do us all a favor and dump Madonna as your principal spokesperson. Sorry to be so crass, but Madonna is a slut … And no religion dare have a slut as its principal representative.
A brief but scathing cat fight ensued. Liz Rosenberg, Madonna’s PR agent stated “I find Rabbi Boteachâ€™s comments regarding Madonna frightening. His vile attacks on her character and as an artist are staggering for someone who professes to be a religious person.” Shmuley responded “For two decades Madonna has been allowed to destroy the female recording industry by erasing the line that separates music from pornography … Women like Liz Rosenberg especially, who heave greatly distinguished themselves professionally through their brains rather than their busts, should be at the forefront of criticizing Madonnaâ€™s assault on feminine dignity.”
Finally, we witness Shmuley’s latest attack on pop culture in this week’s issue of Jewsweek, where his columns are regularly reproduced (oddly enough, hardly an issue of Jewsweek goes by lately, without having some mention of Madonna in it). In a column titled The tragedy of modern music he goes on to pan all “modern music,” while praising oldies – music of the 60’s and seventies. Shmuley’s fave artists? Barry Manilow (a “great songwriter” – barf!), Barbra Streisand (described as “one of the most beautiful and interesting women in the world”), George Harrison, John Lennon (they would never make out on stage with each other) and presumably at some point, Michael Jackson (?).
Shmuley even dictates to his daughters what music they can and cannot listen to , which is fine – that’s his job as a parent. But that he places more importance on what they hear than on what they eat seems a bit, you know, whacked. Poor girls are gonna go nuts and become social retards listening to The Beatles, Brandy, Yentl and, presumably, the Pirchei Boys Choir. In that respect Shmuley’s just like any other ubber parent – eschewing all things they are not familiar with, and wondering “What’s with kids these days? What’s with that noise they listen to? Why can’t music be like it was in my day?” Arguments like that have been used to condemn every emerging musical genre, ever.
I mean sure, much, if not most modern pop music is crap. But to condemn it all is just a sign that one is seriously out of touch. Shmuley is clearly not the radical 22 year old engenue that revolutionized the concept of kiruv at Oxford (earning the ire of his Lubavitcher overlords at the same time). Oh well. We’ll always have Kosher Sex and its heter on oral pleasure I guess. I can live with that.