TORONTO (JTA) — A prominent Orthodox rabbi in Toronto has condemned the latest book by celebrity Rabbi Shmuley Boteach and pronounced it is "forbidden" for anyone to buy or read it.
In an open letter published on the Jewish news website The Algemeiner, Rabbi Immanuel Schochet denounced Boteach’s newest book, "Kosher Jesus," as "heretical."
The book "poses a tremendous risk to the Jewish community," wrote Schochet, an emeritus professor of philosophy and religion at Toronto’s Humber College and spiritual leader of the city’s Congregation Beth Joseph.
"I have never read a book, let alone one authored by a purported frum (religious) Jew, that does more to enhance the evangelical missionary message and agenda than the aforementioned book," Schochet said. "It is forbidden for anyone to buy or read this book, or give its author a platform in any way, shape or form to discuss this topic."
The volume "must be rejected for being heretical," he said.
The latest offering from Boteach, who had come under fire from fellow rabbis years ago for offering spiritual advice to the late singer Michael Jackson and for authoring the 1999 book "Kosher Sex," explores the Jewish roots of Jesus and whether the exploration should lead modern Jews to "rediscover" and celebrate the extent to which the Hebrew Bible shaped his thinking.
In a lengthy response that has been widely disseminated online, Boteach shot back, saying he "must retain the right to defend myself against the appalling and libelous charge of heresy."
Boteach said his book paints Jesus as "a Torah-observant Jew whose mission it was to restore Jewish observance fully among his Jewish brethren and fight Roman persecution."
"It’s time these universal Jewish ideas that have so influenced the world be traced back to their original source," Boteach wrote in defense of his book. "It’s time that the Jewishness of Jesus be rediscovered by Christians."
As for Schochet’s charge that the book will embolden Christians to convert Jews, Boteach said it "is the ultimate argument against Christian missionaries" [because it offers] significant information to argue convincingly against any Christian attempt to evangelize Jews."