Friends have asked me whether I expected this level of attack in publishing Kosher Jesus. My response has been that while I expected the book to be criticized, I never expected my critics to compromise their own values in going after the book.
This has placed me in a dilemma. To what extend do I respond to the attacks without allowing myself to be compromised with what can seem increasingly petty?
To be sure, I had to respond to Rabbi Immanuel Schochet absurdly calling my book heretical and banning it, and to the extent that his son Yitzchok was and is one of the foremost cheerleaders for attacking the book, and seems, from his own Tweets to have played a central role in inspiring his father's condemnation of it, I pointed out that I had unfortunately experienced something similar 14 years ago when, in a public debate about one of my books with Yitzchok, he had torn the pages out of the book in front of hundreds of people, declaring it was garbage and merited his contempt.
Yitzchok responded to me and I have no desire in prolonging this distraction. But the brazenness of the misrepresentations included in his post -- and I trust they are due to faulty memory and were not deliberate -- merit the following clarifications:
1. Rabbi Immanuel Schochet was sent a PDF, pirated copy of my book to read by a Rabbi in California who confirmed to me he had obtained it and sent to Rabbi Schochet for his opinion. The problem with this, aside from it being unethical, is that it contains numerous errors. Had Rabbi Schochet requested a copy of the book from me, I would, of course, have gladly provided it.
2. In our debate 14 years ago, Yitzchok did not accidentally drop pages from my book The Jewish Guide to Adultery: How to Turn Your Marriage Into An Illicit Affair. He ripped them out, in front of hundreds of people, declaring that the book merited that level of scorn. After tearing the pages out, he consciously and deliberately cast them on the floor. Changing the story now is not an option. The event was video and audiotaped, not to mention witnessed by hundreds. It is promising, however, that Yitzchok agrees that these kinds of attacks on books are wrong enough for him to deny the incident. Also, having now learned that it was Yitzchok's first debate it is understandable that he might have made the mistake of believing that spectacle is an acceptable substitute for an absence of substance. My point is bringing this up, and responding to his father's ban on Kosher Jesus as well, is to make clear that the proper way to disagree with a publication is to debate the content rather than literally destroy or ban the book.
3. The idea that any of my books, Moses of Oxford, included, are against Jewish law, or that I would come to Yitzchok to make that kind of admission, should not only strike the reader as incredulous but is pure libel and fiction.
4. Dr. Michael Brown is a Jew who converted to Christianity and whom I have debated approximately 20 times around the world. (We will debating my book Kosher Jesus in New York on 13 March.) The videos are, by our mutual agreement, available in many forums, including on our respective websites. Unlike Yitzchok who is prone to hyperbole, I will not declare who won those debates -- or indeed my debates with Yitzchok -- trusting in the discernment of the viewer to draw his own conclusions, which is why I allowed them to be posted in the first place. It goes without saying that I disagree with everything Mike is trying to do in converting Jews and have consciously resisted his efforts perhaps more than any other Rabbi in the United States. He comes in for a huge amount of criticism in Kosher Jesus. But he deserves the right to be accurately portrayed and apparently there was never any panel of judges or any kind of vote that declared anyone victor in the debate between him and Rabbi Immanuel Schochet that took place on March 30, 1995, at Arizona State University, according to the moderator, Dr. James White. Yitzchok, in making claims whose facts can be easily refuted by Christian missionaries, gives them ammunition against us Rabbis who are fighting them as being unconcerned with the truth and undermines our credibility.
5. As for Yitzchok's insistence on his father's consistency, Immanuel Schochet contradicts this in his very letter banning my book, saying that it's not his normal practice to write condemnatory letters but he has decided in this instant to be inconsistent and to write a condemnatory letter. So much for consistency.
As for the Chief Rabbi issue, Yitzchok and I did a discussion together at his Synagogue in London this past summer on the subject that was quite informative and pleasant and shows that, despite all this back and forth, we really are friends when he is not gratuitously attacking or mocking me, as has been his practice for some two decades on innumerable issues, and I urge the reader to watch it on YouTube on our Jewish Values Network channel.
I remain by my original point that Rabbi Immanuel Schochet's banning of my book without providing a single pretext was unfair, irresponsible, and an affront to scholarship. Yitzchok's defense of the action, comparing his father to Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, the greatest Jewish legal scholar of the 20th century, is clearly a stretch, to use the British understatement, and one that no reader will find persuasive. If you want to attack an author or condemn his book you can't simply cite your 'authoritative' opinion and command millions of people to obey your decree. The Jewish community is not a dictatorship. You need to provide sources and sound arguments, failing which your standing as a scholar will undoubtedly suffer.
With those clarifications, it's time to move on.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach was the London Times Preacher of the Year at the Millennium and received the American Jewish Press Associations' Highest Award for Excellence in Commentary as well as the National Fatherhood Award for his national TV Show Shalom in the Home. The international best-selling author of 27 books, his newest work Kosher Jesus will be published on February 1st. Follow him Twitter @RabbiShmuley.
Follow Rabbi Shmuley Boteach on Twitter: www.twitter.com/RabbiShmuley