PERSONAL: Name is pronounced "Boh-tay-ach"; married; wife's name Debra (a homemaker); children: six. Religion: Jewish.
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Random House, 1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019.
CAREER: Rabbi, writer, and public speaker. Founder, L'Chaim Society; cofounder, with Michael Jackson, Heal the Kids Foundation; Loveprophet.com (dating Web site), founder. Has appeared on television and radio shows, including The View, Howard Stern, Good Morning America, Politically Incorrect, Larry King Live, Tonight Show, MSNBC, and Entertainment Tonight.
AWARDS, HONORS: London Times Preacher of the Year, runner-up, 1999, awarded, 2000.
AS SHMULEY BOTEACH
The Wolf Shall Lie with the Lamb: The Messiah in Hasidic Thought, Jason Aronson (Northvale, NJ), 1993.
Wrestling with the Divine: A Jewish Response to Suffering, Jason Aronson (Northvale, NJ), 1995.
Wisdom, Understanding, and Knowledge: Basic Concepts of Hasidic Thought, Jason Aronson (Northvale, NJ), 1996.
Kosher Sex: A Recipe for Passion and Intimacy, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1999.
Dating Secrets of the Ten Commandments, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2000.
Why Can't I Fall in Love: A Twelve-Step Program, Regan Books (New York, NY), 2001.
(With Uri Geller and Deepak Chopra) The Psychic and the Rabbi: A Remarkable Correspondence, Sourcebooks (Naperville, IL), 2001.
Also author of An Intelligent Person's Guide to Judaism and Jewish Guide to Adultery. Writings have been featured in Newsweek, Time, New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, Playboy, and Cosmopolitan, as well as on the internet and in various religious publications.
SIDELIGHTS: Rabbi Shmuel Boteach has helped to redefine the standard image of, among other things, a rabbi. He is hip, he is funny, and some of the subjects he chooses to talk about are often controversial in conservative circles. His books Kosher Sex and DatingSecrets of the Ten Commandments are not just about dating and marriage relationships from an orthodox Jewish perspective, they are also written from the perspective of an intelligent man who knows how to explain things in a way that is both comprehensible and funny. Boteach's lively approach to making Jewish teachings accessible to just about anyone has proven extremely popular.
Boteach has spent most of his professional life in the public eye. In 1989, the Lubavitch Society, the orthodox Jewish community that trained Boteach, sent the twenty one year old and his wife to Oxford University, to establish a Jewish student union. There, Boteach kick-started one of the most popular organizations ever at the prestigious British university: the L'Chaim Society. "Within two years, [Boteach] made the L' Chaim Society … second in popularity among campus clubs only to the Oxford Union, the debate club. Lectures he hosted drew as many as 2,000 students," wrote Eric Konigsberg in New York. The high-profile L'Chaim Society invited such guest speakers as Boy George and Stephen Hawking to come and teach about "values-based leadership," and attracted Jewish and non-Jewish students alike.
After several years and much success at Oxford, Boteach returned to the United States with his wife, Debra, and their six children. There, he opened up a new chapter of his L'Chaim Society and began his efforts to bring the large Jewish population of New York City back to their faith. His approach was new: He made things easy to understand and he did not alienate people by making them feel guilty about past transgressions. "I have seen my purpose as bringing godliness to places it has never reached, to bring values and godly teaching to the widest possible public, Jew and non-Jews included," Boteach explained to Sarah Blustain of Salon.com.
Though some conservative have criticized Boteach, his popularity speaks for itself. He was named 2000 Rabbi of the Year by the London Times in the largest margin in the contest's history, and published Kosher Sex and Dating Secrets of the Ten Commandments to rave reviews and millions of readers. As quoted by Konigsberg, Boteach has said of his teaching, "What I'm doing, in effect, is translating [the Torah] to today's world to reach more people."
Boteach has also made a name for himself by cofounding the organization Heal the Kids with entertainer Michael Jackson. Among the members of the organization's board of advisors are Shimon Peres, Elizabeth Taylor, and Uri Geller. In an interview for BBC News online, Boteach said, "Heal the Kids is about getting parents to enjoy their children again, about putting their kids first. We're going to meet twice a year, we're going to create a community of people worldwide who read their children bedtime stories."
Despite Boteach's casual approach to the teaching of Judaism, orthodoxy remains a vital part of his life and his profession. He is known for his understanding and non-judgmental attitude, as well as his unconventional advice. In an article for olam.org, Boteach recalled the pain he went through after his parents divorced and the anger he felt toward his father: "The pain of it stayed with me long into my adult years and it became a defining event of my life. But in the end, I became close with my father once again. Several factors contributed to this closeness, but none was as important as this simple fact: I refused to judge him. One of the most beautiful rabbinical teachings proclaims, 'Never judge a man until you are in his place.'"
In addition to his career as a writer, a public speaker, and a humanitarian, Boteach is also the founder of a matchmaking Web site that encourages healthy, long relationships.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
New York, March 19, 1999, Lisa DePaulo, "Thou Shalt Have Dirty Thoughts," p. 16.
BBC News online,http://news.bbc.co.uk/ (March 6, 2001), "The Rabbi, the Psychic, and the Pop Star."
Beliefnet,http://www.beliefnet.com/ (October 11, 2001), "Rabbi Shmuley Boteach."
Heal the Kids Web site,http://www.healthekids.net/ (October 11, 2001).
New York Magazine online,http://www.nymag.com/ (November 2000), Eric Konigsberg, "Goy Vay."
Olam.org,http://www.olam.org (October 11, 2001), Shmuley Boteach, "Question of the Week."
Royce Carlton Web site,http://www.roycecarlton.com/ (June 2000), "Biography: Rabbi Shmuley Boteach."
Salon.com,http://www.salon.com/ (March 2, 2000), Sarah Blustain, "The Love Rabbi."*