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Jesus for Jews?

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In his upcoming book, Kosher Jesus, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach documents Jesus’s Jewish heritage in an attempt to bridge the gap between the Jewish and Christian worlds.
In his upcoming book, Kosher Jesus, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach documents Jesus’s Jewish heritage in an attempt to bridge the gap between the Jewish and Christian worlds.

In his upcoming book, Kosher Jesus, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach documents Jesus’s Jewish heritage in an attempt to bridge the gap between the Jewish and Christian worlds.

In an effort to strengthen ties between Jews and Christians, American rabbi Shmuley Boteach announced the forthcoming release of his latest book, Kosher Jesus. While Boteach has been acclaimed for a number of other interesting volumes with provocative titles—”Kosher Adultery” and “The Kosher Sutra,” to name a couple—Kosher Jesus promises to top them all.
According to Boteach, who formerly served as a Chabad shliach in Oxford, England, the upcoming book will illuminate the history concerning Jesus as a Jew and reframe his ascendency from a Jewish perspective. “This book is telling the Jews to reclaim Jesus, the authentic Jesus, the historical Jesus, the Jewish Jesus,” he said.
For Boteach, Kosher Jesus will provide a doctrinal basis for the emerging relationship between Jews and Christians and their mutual interests. “Suddenly we have evangelical Christians emerging as the foremost supporters of the state of Israel,” he said. “We have this political alliance. What is a lacking is a theological bridge.”
The book will primarily serve to cleanse prejudices and clarify Christian perceptions of Jesus. “Christians don’t know the Jewish Jesus,” Boteach explained. “They know the Christ-divinity but not the Jewish man Jesus. There’s a need to discover the humanity of Jesus.” He hopes to provide an accurate account that has been otherwise ignored. “There was a lot of embellishment and editing [about Jesus in the New Testament]” elaborated Rabbi Shmuley. “We have to remember Paul [the apostle] never met Jesus. He cannot offer us a first-hand account of Jesus’ life.”
However, Boteach also suggested that his book would not only correct Christian dogma, but provide an invaluable resource in Jesus to the Jewish populace. “Christian ideas of Jesus as divine messiah emerged as a savvy adaptation following the destruction of the Second Temple,” he explained. “[If understood properly, Jews] can take inspiration from Jesus’ often beautiful ethical teachings and appreciate Jesus as a devoted Jewish son who became martyred while trying to lift the Roman yoke of oppression from his beloved people.”
When asked about whether he feared being ostracized by the Orthodox community for his controversial work, Boteach remained undaunted. “I lived my whole life with criticism. The Talmud says that you learn more from your critics than you do from your fans.”
The rabbi further underscored what prompted him to write Kosher Jesus.  “Christians are our best friends today,” he explained. “There has to be a discussion of the theology. You can’t have this 600-pound gorilla in the room and just ignore it.” When Boteach attended a Christian pro-Israel assembly recently, he was bothered to find that discussion of Jesus was deemed taboo. “It’s weird. How can you have a relationship with close friends and you can’t talk about the most important thing in their life and the most famous Jews that ever lived?”
Needless to say, the title of Boteach’s book has elicited outrage from scores of religious leaders. In a letter entitled “Responding to Attacks on ‘Kosher Jesus’” that appeared in the Algemeiner, the rabbi answered to one such assault. “Rabbi Yitzchok Wolf’s vicious attack against me and my new book, Kosher Jesus – to say nothing of the insane comments attending his diatribe, some of which called on me to be ‘burned out from the Jewish people’ – betrays a malignancy growing among we orthodox Jews that should be resisted and combated by all who are concerned for the heart and soul of the Jewish community,” he opened.
In another paragraph attending the same article, Rabbi Boteach succinctly summarized Kosher Jesus and its profound messages. “Jesus was a Jew. He lived a life totally devoted to Torah and Mitzvos, as should every Jew. He resisted all efforts to change Judaism. As my book clearly demonstrates from Christian sources, Jesus drew upon the Torah for everything he taught and states emphatically that “those who do not keep every last letter of the Torah will be the least in the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 5:18) It is high time that Judaism received credit for the riches it has brought the world through Christianity. It is also time that our Jewish brothers lost to us through conversion to Christianity come back to the religion Jesus himself practiced, namely, Judaism.”

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