Chana’s sex shop shares the message of the Rebbe

WHEN you hear the surname Boteach, you automatically associate it with the forename Shmuley.

You think of the Jewish Telegraph columnist, one of America’s most influential rabbis and his controversial books on Kosher Sex.

And, more recently, you think of Pamela Anderson and other celebrities who seek advice from him, and then discuss it with international media.

But for his Oxford-born daughter Chana, it wasn’t all glitz, glamour, fame and fortune being the daughter of one of the world’s most controversial rabbis.

The 28-year-old told me: “The attention we had growing up was double edged. A lot of people were supportive of his message and appreciative of the work he does, but then others are not.

“The Jewish community can get a little bit abrasive when it comes to some of his ideas.

“I definitely faced a bit of a backlash and had to work hard to find myself.

“I was always told that I was the most like him, but I wanted to forge my own identity.

“Moving to Israel gave me a chance to find myself as they didn’t know him as much here — I felt a lot more liberty and freedom there.”

Chana admits to questioning Judaism growing up. But, this is not a sign of rebellion, as she quickly points out that she was actually taught to do so.

She said: “We grew up in a secular world, but were very Orthodox. It was confusing, but I asked a lot of questions and found what was right for me.

“Something must have gone right as I’m still very attached to my Judaism — it’s the cornerstone of my existence.”

The secular world Chana speaks of was during her father’s stay in Oxford, where he served as the rabbi for students in the area for 11 years.

He founded the Oxford L’Chaim Society, which was, at its high point, the second-largest student organisation in Oxford’s history.

Like most young people, the idea of their father openly discussing sex to the majority of the world would be somewhat awkward or embarrassing.

And for Chana, this was no different.

She said: “In the beginning, I was a little bit embarrassed. Kids used to make fun of me on the school bus about my dad writing a naughty book.

“There have definitely been points where it has been embarrassing.

“When my dad gives a speech and gets really into it, it does get a teeny, tiny bit uncomfortable.

“But that’s my dad and it’s natural to feel that way — but hey, we work with it.”

And it’s in Israel where Chana has really rocked the boat.

The 28-year-old made world news last month when she opened the world’s first kosher sex shop in Tel Aviv.

The store was opened to coincide with the new 20th anniversary edition of her father’s book Kosher Sex and is devoted to enhancing sexual passion within marriage and committed relationships, but in a subtle and classy way.

“What’s interesting about this collaboration with my dad is that he is a little bit of the older generation — which he’ll get mad at me for saying, as he’s so super with it.

“I know what it’s like to grow up in the modern world and I’ve seen what relationships are like these days and what they were like back then.

“When it came to products, I wanted things which were made by women, for women and peaceful and fun. I gave it my touch.

“I’ve had a few nasty comments, but I stay away from that. The feedback to the shop has been really, really nice and it’s great to see that people are open to this message as it can improve people’s relationships.”

Chana has already had ultra-Orthodox males entering the shop to buy gifts for their wives, which she said makes her “proud”.

Opening the shop wasn’t exactly easy, either. But not because of protests (of which there were none), or the reaction from the Orthodox community, which was not as bad as many would have thought.

It was difficult because of issues with the government.

“Imports in Israel are already difficult,” she explained. “But we are working on it and hope to have everything that people need.

“Why shouldn’t Israelis have just as much access to these incredible products as the rest of the world?”

One idea to bring a little touch of religion to the shop that Chana has successfully implemented is to hand out Shabbat candles to certain customers.

This was done with the Lubavitcher Rebbe in mind.

She said: “I’m supportive of women’s wellness. Judaism is very open about sexuality and relationships.

“I wanted to add a Jewish touch to the shop, and it’s one of the things that the Rebbe wanted to spread — bringing light into the home.

“You can light the candles and then drive to the cinema if you want, but lighting them brings a sense of peace and light into the home.

“It’s so important to providing a happy and peaceful home.”

Speaking of home life, Chana is currently not in a relationship.

Her openness to discussing this aspect of her life comes with the territory of her upbringing and her shop’s message.

So, is a shidduch in the pipeline or will it be a more modern way of finding a partner?

She pondered: “The way I was raised, I didn’t know exactly where I fit.

“It’s definitely been a contributing factor to my relationship status, for sure.

“But I also just haven’t found the right person yet — when it happens, it happens.

“If it’s set up for me, that’s fine, but if it comes the other route then that’s also fine. There’s no preference for me.”

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