Rabbi Shmuley Boteach has tirelessly promoted Jewish values in a wild variety of different capacities, from his radio show on Oprah‘s station to his two-dozen books (including the best-seller Kosher Sex), to his TV show, Shalom in the Home, on TLC, to an ill-fated but groundbreaking run for Congress last year, to the jamboree weekly Shabbat dinners that Shmuley and his wife have hosted, which have put Jewish values on display for thousands of guests. (I’m somewhere between proud and shell-shocked to have played a small part in some of these adventures.)
Perhaps the best-known Orthodox Jew in the world, Shmuley gets accused of self-promotion on a regular basis. Adding to the target on his yarmulke is the fact that Shmuley is not shy about trumpeting his many accomplishments, including his days at Oxford as the leader of Chabad and name-dropping his many boldface-named friends, such as Dr. Oz, Michael Jackson, Cory Booker and Rosie O’Donnell. Worth noting is that much of that criticism comes not from Christians, who are accustomed to big preachers with big voices, but from fellow Jews who remain reluctant to proclaim their affiliation while strangers in a strange land. But whatever one’s feelings about Shmuley, impossible to ignore has been his consistent, forceful articulation of a message with special resonance for Jews: the obligation of civilized people to oppose genocide.
On Sunday, coinciding with U.N. Week and the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide, Shmuley brings together two figures intimately familiar with mass murder: Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel and Rwandan President Paul Kagame. For good measure, two of the most generous philanthropists in history, Sheldon Adelson and Michael Steinhardt, will be on hand for introductions and concluding remarks. Shmuley, who has visited Rwanda several times and speaks of neighbor taking machete to neighbor with a powerful gruesomeness, moderates the whole evening. As he told the Jewish News Service with poignant simplicity: “In Leviticus 19:16, it says, ‘Do not stand idly by while your neighbor bleeds.’”
Great Hall at Cooper Union, 7 East Seventh Street, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m., $20 ($10 with student I.D.)