A recent headline from the Miami Herald screamed: “Lebron James hires rabbi.” Two days later, Israeli papers reported that “Dawson’s Creek” star James Van Der Beek wed his model girlfriend at the Kabbalah Centre in Tel Aviv.
Two Jewish headlines, but no Jews.
Non-Jews turning to Judaism isn’t new. The concept is at least as old as the bible. But over the last several years, more and more high-profile stars like Madonna, Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher, David and Victoria Beckham have all been embracing their inner-Jew. Which is especially amusing at a time when fewer and fewer Jews are practicing Judaism. Let’s face it: Lebron James could walk into any church in America for guidance—but he sought a rabbi instead. And even though she didn’t convert, Chelsea Clinton proudly included Jewish ritual at her interfaith wedding. All of which makes clear that the religious impulse is there—just not among the Jews that Judaism was meant for. And what is it that non-Jews find so interesting?
Now, before the rants against the Kabbalah Centre begin, let’s consider that—cult or not, “Jewish” or not—Rabbi Yehuda Berg is succeeding where the Jewish establishment is failing.
“To get Jews interested in the Jewish world, you have to get the non-Jews interested,” Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is quoted as saying in a profile on slate.com. “The Jews will follow what the non-Jews are doing.”
I asked Boteach about this when I interviewed him last April.
“I would be lying if I said that I believe in influencing the non-Jewish world for the purpose of impacting on the Jews,” Boteach said. “That the non-Jews are nothing but a means to an end. I think that’s insulting. To say that 99.9 percent of the world’s population doesn’t matter is classic Jewish arrogance and condescension. I believe in making the world more godly. I believe in making the world more values-based, in healing all families, all marriage, but I believe in my people and I love my people and I’ve given my life to my people, and yes, I do believe that even for its own sake, the best way to influence the Jewish world is to influence the world at large.”
So, what do you think? Is it working?
(Hat tip to my sis for the news)