Oxford University L'Chaim Society

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The Oxford University L'Chaim Society was a student society at the University of Oxford from 1989 to 2001. At its peak, it was the second-largest society within the University of Oxford.[1]


The Oxford University L'Chaim Society was established in 1989 by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who had been sent to Oxford by the Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson in 1988.[2][3] Accordingly, at its onset the society formed part of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement. However, L'Chaim Society evolved to become an independent interfaith, debating society, with thousands of Jewish and non-Jewish members.[4] The society grew to be the second-biggest student organization ever in Oxford, with a membership that reportedly included over 5,000 non-Jews.[5][6]

The society held communal Sabbath dinners every Friday evening. It organized numerous other events and brought to Oxford famous guest speakers from politics, arts, and culture, including a significant number of leading Zionists. They included six Israeli prime ministers (namely Yitzhak Rabin,[7] Yitzhak Shamir, Shimon Peres, Ehud Olmert, Ariel Sharon[8] and Benjamin Netanyahu), former Australian prime minister Bob Hawke, former Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev, UN Secretary General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, British politicians Norman Lamont, John Patten, and David Young, U.S. General Robert C. Oaks, Israeli Supreme Court Vice President Elyakim Rubinstein, Mossad Director Isser Harel, Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal, Nobel Prize winning author Elie Wiesel, Zionist activist Natan Sharansky, novelist Haim Be'er, theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, historian Benzion Netanyahu, banker Edmond Safra, UK Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Rabbi/singer Shlomo Carlebach, singers Michael Jackson and Boy George, football player Diego Maradona, and actor Jon Voight.[9][6][3][10][11][4][5]

Some Orthodox patrons became concerned about the direction of the group and the percentage of non-Jewish members, and Boteach was asked to remove some non-Jewish students from the society; others wanted him to exclude gay students.[5] Boteach refused on both counts, and converted the L'Chaim Society from a student society into an charitable organization outside the university.[12][13]


Presidents of the society included American Baptist Rhodes Scholar and future U.S. Senator Cory Booker, Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer, Hebrew language revivalist Ghil'ad Zuckermann, and American Mormon and future president of Southern Utah University Michael Benson.[7][14][5][13][15][11]

Other Oxford University students who were members of the Oxford University L'Chaim Society include Harvard Law School professor Noah Feldman, Australian politician Joshua Frydenberg, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and British-Italian United Nations official Maurizio Giuliano.[16][17]

See also


See also


  1. Michael A. Jolles and W. Rubinstein (editors) (2011), The Palgrave Dictionary of Anglo-Jewish History, Palgrave Macmillan, p. 116.
  2. Boteach, Shmuel (1994). Moses of Oxford (2 volumes). London: André Deutsch, Vol. 1, pp. xix-xx.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Who is Shumuley Boteach?; He's the Jewish missionary in the A-list position.. March 29, 2001. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 It’s very hard to be a proud Jew here, Naomi Firsht, The Jewish Chronicle, January 4, 2016.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Jenni Frazer (October 17, 2019). "‘I come from a pretty broken place’ - Shmuel Boteach, self-styled ‘America’s rabbi’ and friend of celebrities, opens up; He talks about Michael Jackson, Roseanne Barr, and the end of his relationship with Democrat presidential hopeful Cory Booker," The Jewish Chronicle.
  6. 6.0 6.1 A Conversation with the 'World's Most Controversial Jew'.  Vice.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Rabbi in spotlight over 'Kosher Sex', Thomas K. Grose, USA Today, February 12, 1999.
  8. Ariel Sharon, Israeli Housing Minister (and later Prime Minister of Israel) visits Oxford in 1991 to speak at the Oxford University L'Chaim Society
  9. Sex book rabbi reveals new plan.
  10. Cory Booker and the Orthodox rabbi were like brothers. Now they don’t speak., Kevin Sullivan, Washington Post, May 31, 2019.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Researcher Profile: Prof of Linguistics & Endangered Languages
  12. Shmuley Boteach's 18-Hour Day. June 15, 2010. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 Cory Booker and the Orthodox rabbi were like brothers. Now they don't speak..
  14. A rabbi, a Mormon and a black Christian mayor walk into a room....  CNN.
  15. Cory Booker Refused to Meet With Ron Dermer and Elie Wiesel Over Iran Deal, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, Observer, February 22, 2016.
  16. Stop Ostracizing Those Who Marry Out, Shmuley Boteach, Huffpost, July 22, 2007.
  17. The Yom Kippur Prayer on Cory Booker's Lips.  The New York Times.