The Rabbi and the Centerfold
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, author of 'Kosher Sex,' has a combative conversation with Playboy's Miss November, Lindsey Vuolo.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach:
In the interest of full disclosure I should tell you that I am not against pornography but rather in favor of the erotic attraction of modesty, and a lot of my books deal with that....On the other hand, I do write books on sexuality and everything else so I have an open mind about all this, but I do come from a specific perspective, so I hope that you will not be offended with any of the questions that I ask. If you feel that some of the questions are unfair or somewhat hostile, by all means you can say you don't want to answer them. I have no interest in portraying you badly in this interview and I will not do that, but I am coming from the perspective that I articulated. Okay?
Lindsey Vuolo: Okay.
SB: Is it correct that you're the first Jewish Playmate?
LV: As far as I know, I'm the first Jewish Playmate to admit that I was Jewish. I think there might have been Playmates that were kind of half Jewish and just never really talked about it.
SB: Clearly you didn't have to be open about everything in your life for the interview [with Playboy that accompanied the pictorial], but you felt strongly that you wanted a Jewish empowerment in the interview [when you spoke about your experiences in Israel and displayed your bat mitzvah photo], is that correct?
LV: Actually, when I gave the interview to Playboy, they asked me what my religious beliefs were and when I said I was Jewish they kind of went with that and asked me questions about it and that's when my trip to Israel came up and, you know, what being Jewish means to me. I thought it was an important thing because it sets me aside. I know I'm different than a lot of the other Playmates being that I am Jewish.
SB: It seems that you are somewhat of a practicing Jew, is that correct?
SB: So what does that mean?
LV: I'm not Orthodox but I'm Conservative. I am practicing a lot more now since I'm away from home [at Indiana University of Pennsylvania] and that I'm getting older. It is kind of a concern of mine that, you know, I would possibly have a family and then not be able to read a service with my family for High Holy Days. But I mean, I practice the High Holy Days. There will still be times when I'll go to Friday night services, but being at school I don't usually go as often as I should.
SB: So in other words, you go to synagogue at least three times a year--
LV: Um hmm [agreeing].
SB: And sometimes you go more often?
LV: Right. Sometimes my mom and I will spend time together and we'll go. We have a pretty good relationship with our rabbi. And I know when I get home that I'll go see him.
Nervous about talking to her rabbi
How does your rabbi feel about the pictures in the centerfold?
LV: That's why I want to go see him when I come home for Thanksgiving, because I haven't spoken to him. I was home for Yom Kippur services, but we have such a large congregation that there was really no time to speak with him after services. I did talk to some of the ladies in my congregation. The rabbi was the one to tell them [about me being Playmate] because they came to me when I was outside. I was getting a drink of water. And they said to me, you know, the rabbi told us that you were in Playboy. Congratulations. I was, like, really nervous. I'm going, what does he think? Does he hate me? Is he mad at me? What are his views on it? And they were just, "Oh, he seemed really happy when he told all of us." So when I go home, I plan on speaking with him and asking him, because I do want to know what he thinks.
SB: And you're close enough to him to speak to him without inhibition about this?
LV: Yeah. I mean, I don't feel uncomfortable talking to him about it. I mean, he's really down to earth.
SB: How would you feel if he had seen the pictures before he spoke to you? If he were a reader of Playboy, would you feel that that's not something that rabbis should be doing?
LV: No, I mean, that's--for each their own. I did Playboy because I didn't think--I mean, yeah, I thought about my religion, but it was for me and I didn't feel like I was doing something wrong.