Rabbi Shmuley Boteach and others welcomed House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) on Sunday at the launch for Boteach’s latest brainchild, a soon-to-be established Jewish Values Institute based in Englewood.
The institute, for which Sunday’s event was a fundraiser, will seek to immerse professionals in discussion and learning about ways to bring Jewish values into American culture, according to Boteach, a columnist for this newspaper.
“It is our hope to inspire more Jewish men and women in politics, media, commerce, and the arts to celebrate their Jewish heritage and be experts in, and exponents of, Jewish values, not just in their personal lives within the Jewish community but in every aspect of public endeavor,” he told The Jewish Standard. “The time has come to inspire Jewish youth to marry their professional careers with a spiritual calling.”
The goal of the institute, he continued, will be not to provide technical skills but to inspire and teach Jewish values using traditional texts. The focus would be on five areas: marriage and relationships; parenting and child-rearing; media and culture; politics and foreign policy; and finance and materialism. It would help established professionals incorporate Jewish values into their messages to the world, Boteach said.
“It will be, ‘How do they present this in the form of a TV pitch with values content, or how do they write movie scripts that can incorporate Jewish values?'” Boteach said.
As an example, Boteach cited the traditional Jewish value of struggle, as compared to the value of perfection, which he believes is more celebrated in the mainstream, Christian culture of the United States.
“I think our Christian brothers and sisters and Hollywood stars value perfection,” Boteach said. “When a Christian asks, ‘What would Jesus do?’ they compare their lives to a standard of perfection. Judaism believes righteousness is found not in perfection, but in struggle.”
Conceding that some feel, in his opinion reasonably, that modern Jewish-American society sometimes overvalues conventional success or success at all costs, Boteach said, “That is just what we are talking about. The push for success at all costs, is that a Jewish value?”
The importance of time and relationships over objects is another value Boteach hopes the institute will promote.
“We are in a culture that’s addicted to things,” he said. “Judaism places time above property. We work hard to have Shabbos, and work on our relationships. Relationships are the source of real happiness.”
Boteach said he was especially honored to have Cantor, the highest-ranking Jewish elected official in American history, attend along with his wife Diana and speak at the kickoff event.
“Eric is an amazing person,” said Boteach. “How often do you have someone who reaches so high in the U.S. government who proudly affirms his identity and has a values-based agenda and is a staunch supporter of Israel?”
Other attendees included Rabbi Yehudah Krinsky, worldwide head of Chabad, and Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO of the Orthodox Union’s kashrut department and religious leader of Cong. Shomrei Emunah in Englewood.
The suggested contribution to attend the event, which took place at a private home in Alpine, was $1,000.