A word about Rabbi Boteach

A word about Rabbi Boteach

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach of Englewood, who is a biweekly contributor to these pages and in fact has a column today right next to this one, was in the headlines at the beginning of the week. On Shabbat, his This World: Values Network put a full-page ad in the New York Times that showed Susan Rice standing next to presumably human skulls. “Susan Rice has a blind spot: Genocide,” the headline blared.

It went on to accuse Ms. Rice, our national security advisor, of a number of evils, including disagreeing with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Benghazi (although it did not use the word, dog-whistle style, assuming that the readers who are passionate about the issue would recognize it, while those who would see it as a provocation would miss it).

Rabbi Boteach did something remarkable with that ad. He attracted nearly unanimous disapproval; groups ranging from J Street to the Orthodox Union, including (but not limited to) the American Jewish Committee, AIPAC, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly, and the Union for Reform Judaism came out with statements condemning it just hours after Shabbat ended. So did Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office. (See story, page 37.)

We are sad to say that in this case we agree with Rabbi Boteach’s critics. We feel that the advertisement added to the circus atmosphere but contributed nothing useful to the debate, that the personal attack against Ms. Rice was wrong, and that the ad’s ad hominen moral ugliness made it easier for anyone not engaged in the issue to dismiss the substance of Mr. Netanyahu’s concern about Iran.

We are sure that this was a momentary lapse on Rabbi Boteach’s part, and we hope that the necessary debate over the terrifyingly real issue of defanging Iran can resume.