Shmuley Boteach is an American Orthodox rabbi, radio and television host, and author. He rose to prominence with the publication of his international bestseller Kosher Sex. He received his rabbinic ordination in 1988 from the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement in New York City, as a disciple of its leader, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson. He frequently appears as a guest on television and radio discussing politics, religion, society and morality. He also now hosts a reality television program entitled Shalom in the Home which involves facilitating conflicts between family members. He has authored many books since Kosher Sex, the latest of which is The Broken American Male.
Question: Can people of different faiths coexist?
Shmuley Boteach: There are a lot of religious people who are just not spiritual. They are . . . They keep every tenet of their faith, but it has not refined their character. It has not made them more open and more compassionate. It’s actually made them more harsher, more condemnatory. Damning others becomes the highest article of faith. That’s where we have to move far away from. I’m a deeply religious man. My Judaism is the core of my existence, and yet it has never been limiting for me. With me, it really isn’t just a cliché to say some of my best friends are not Jewish. Some of my best friends . . . Probably the majority of my closest friends are not Jewish. (Laughter) I have black friends, white friends, gay friends, Islamic friends because I think that the highest . . . the best model of a religious individual is what the Bible says in the book of Deuteronomy, which is that we should be a tree of the field. What is a tree? Well it’s rooted in its soil. It’s rooted in its tradition, but its branches grow out into the rest of the world and it oxygenates the planet. It takes from its roots and its soil and it gives something to a . . . to a greater whole, a wider good. But you have a lot of religious people who aren’t trees. They’re potatoes and turnips. They remain firmly grounded and limited by their soil. They don’t wanna connect with people of a different faith, or people of no faith. That’s where religion goes astray.
Recorded on: 09/05/2007