When Dr. Mehmet Oz, the renowned daytime television personality, came to Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s Shabbat table, he was surprised at all the sugary food. “Shmuley, how can you do this to your children?” Shmuley pleaded innocent. “My wife did it,” he said.
The rabbi told the story at a recent dinner of his organization, This World: The Values Network, at the Marriott Marquis in Manhattan. The event, attended by 525 guests, benefited the Rambam Medical Center in Israel.
Boteach presented the inaugural Champions of Jewish Values Awards to Dr. Oz, a Muslim from Turkey, as a champion of the Jewish value of life. “We recognize that human life matters,” the rabbi said. “You don’t have to be Jewish to promote Jewish values of justice, truth and respect.”
Boteach also presented the inaugural award to philanthropists Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson as champions of Jewish identity, and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel as champion of the Jewish spirit. Elisha Wiesel accepted on behalf of his father who was ill.
In giving the award to Adelson, Boteach described him as “a billionaire with a common man’s touch. He’s risen to the top of Jewish philanthropy.”
Adelson noted that Jews have been persecuted from time immemorial. “Today only 42 percent of Jews say they’ll marry within the religion and raise their children Jewish. There’s nothing more noble that a Jew can do than to mix the cement and build the next generation.”
His wife Miriam, who is Orthodox and a medical doctor, said she grew up in Palestine as a proud Jew. She said her four children see Israel more than she does. “Before Adam was one, his passport shows he was eight times in Israel.”
She said Sheldon grew up in a Boston tenement and faced antisemitism. He had to go to school in groups of four so as not to get beat up.
Sheldon, whose father was a taxi driver from Lithuania, was brought up as “a street kid. I was the designated bully. When a Jewish kid got into trouble he’d say, ‘You fool around with me you deal with Adelson.’ They once called my bluff and I woke up in the hospital.”
He said his father, who was poor, taught him nobility. “He said to consider yourself part of a world of Jewish people is to become noble. I don’t know too many Jewish wives who call their husbands noble.”
In saluting the Adelsons, Prof. Alan Dershowitz of Harvard Law School said that no family has done more to preserve the Jewish identity. And he added, “There can never be peace for the Jewish people without strength and power. We must use our wealth and brains to defend the Jewish people.”
Oz said when he was in the Turkish military he was a doctor among soldiers. “I performed circumcisions. That’s how I did my service.”
His wife Lisa is a Christian who grew up on a farm near Philadelphia. “I watched her ride a horse,” he said. “She put her legs around that horse and made him go where she wanted. That’s what she did to me and made me do whatever she wanted.”
On a closing note Boteach said that “ever since Mehmet and Lisa started coming to our home for Shabbat dinner, our home is sugar-free, no sugary drinks.”
A month after the awards dinner Rabbi Boteach took Dr. Oz and their families on a whirlwind tour of Israel in July, underwritten by the Adelsons. For 10 days they covered not only the usual tourist sites but also made a stopover at Rambam in Haifa. Dr. Oz was impressed with its state-of-the-art Sammy Ofer Fortified Underground Emergency Hospital which serves all patients, Muslims and Jews, in wartime.
In Jerusalem Dr. Oz met with Bibi. No word whether the cardiothoracic surgeon and the prime minister talked about bowel movements.