The Jewish Values Network has a December 8th event, "Is religion a Blessing or a Curse in America?" Featured speakers are Shmuley Boteach and his protegé Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, New Jersey.
Missing from the panel is anyone who would even remotely critcize religion in America. Alan Colmes of FoxNews may critcize some applications of religion in America but not most applications and not religion as a whole.
Why is there no atheist on the panel, no Hitchens or Dawkins or Harris?
Perhaps because JVN is a Shmuely Boteach project. Still, to be fair, I asked that question to JVN and await the reply.
Most of you know I don't like Shmuley. Some may recall this dislike dates back to the week before he left America for Oxford, when I had the opportunity to meet him. Interestingly, that dislike was shared by almost everyone else at that meeting, save for Shmuley's lone friend. This friend was the sole reason for Shmuley's presence that day. None of us had met the man before and Shmuley was a complete unknown – a kollel student on his way to his first job as a campus rabbi.
Boteach's arrogance was astonishing. He was sitting in the presence of the best campus shaliach Chabad had (and the best they ever did have), a true pioneer of campus outreach and a real mentch. Shmuley, an uninvited guest with zero track record, treated him like a piece of trash. He did the same with other (non-Chabad) people involved in the project. At one point during Shmuely's unscheduled 'lecture,' I said to the shaliach, "Are you sure the Rebbe is sending this guy to Oxford? This has to be stopped. We have to call 770 ASAP." The shaliach agreed the choice seemed exceedingly poor. But no one in Chabad would dare question the Rebbe. Shmuley went on to build a huge operation in Oxford, largely by breaking most of the rules Chabad rabbis were then expected to follow. Eventually, when Chabad could take it no more, after repeated warnings he was thrown out. This has happened so rarely in Chabad that I can think of no other real examples to cite.
Normally, I would not publicize anything Shmuley is involved in, save for an occasional column he's written that deserves special scrutiny or, even rarer, praise.
But JVN has offered to give FailedMessiah.com readers 50 free tickets. You can claim yours by sending an email RSVP to email@example.com with 'failedmessiah' as part of the message body.
Go if you want. Booker, who is not Jewish, is an especially interesting shill for Orthodox Judaism and it should be fun to hear what Colmes has to say.
But don't forget the gaping hole in JVN's evangelical-style event. JVN has asked a question and JVN has stacked the panel to get the answer it wants.
Dishonest? Sure. Unethical? Sure. Does Shmuley even realize this? No. Realizing his own ethical lapses has never been a Boteach trademark.
UPDATE 11-28-07: Booker recently spoke at the annual dinner of Chabad's Rabbinical College of America. Here is how Chabad.org describes Booker's first connection with Chabad:
His relationship with Chabad-Lubavitch dates back to his days as a Rhodes scholar in Oxford University, where he studied and eventually became president of a Chabad-style club on campus.
Like Pravda of old, Shmuley Boteach has been written out of the story.