September 16, 2019

The Kosher Intimacy Trader

“Your dad wrote a sex book!” The little boy on the red double-decker bus pointed his finger at a girl with pin-straight hair. At 8, Chana Boteach was growing used to the controversy. Her father, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, had just released his bombshell book, “Kosher Sex.” 

Fast forward 20 years and Chana Boteach is the owner of a boutique sex shop in the heart of Tel Aviv called, you guessed it, “Kosher Sex.” The store is the latest extension to a business she co-owns with her famous father called Sensual Revolution. According to its website, the company promises to “revolutionize your relationship.” Rabbi Boteach takes care of the counseling aspect of the business while Chana is in charge of enhancing intimacy in people’s lives through the use of sex aids. She’s quick to add that while no customer is excluded, her merchandise is geared toward couples in long-term relationships. 

“We’re very emphatic about commitment,” she said. “It’s the only way you can have true intimacy.”

Boteach’s shop is a far cry from its seedy, neon competitors a few blocks away on Allenby Street. First, it doubles as a vintage clothing shop so customers feel comfortable walking in. But even the sex toys are posh and discreet, including the pink and jade crystal dildos that would look more at home in a gemstone studio; and the black and gold nipple tassels that hark back to flappers from the roaring ’20s. 

We’re very emphatic about commitment. It’s the only way you can have true intimacy. — Chana Boteach

“Everyone needs this kind of stuff to maintain the lust,” Boteach said, noting that her most recent customer was a shy man in a yarmulke who bought his wife a candle and pair of handcuffs. 

One of the first questions Boteach is asked is her credentials in setting up a sex shop. After all, she is, in her words, “very much single. I grew up in that environment,” she said. “I was always surrounded by that conversation. I had a fascination with human nature and sexuality.” 

The second of nine siblings, Boteach was born and raised in Oxford, England, until her family moved to New Jersey when she was 9. The polemics against her father, an Orthodox rabbi, dogged the family on both sides of the Atlantic. “It was complicated growing up in the Jewish community and not really fitting in,” she said. 

At 19, Boteach made aliyah. She studied for a year at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem before being drafted into the army. Although she admits she was “shell-shocked” by the military, it was important to her to serve. “Israel is one of the loves of my life,” she said. “Jews are safe in America because we’re safe in Israel.”

Boteach then graduated from the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya with a degree in political science but said, “I thought I wanted to go into politics but then I realized I actually wanted to go into sexual politics.” 

Her favorite sale to date is a vibrator she sold to a 79-year-old who sat in her store for more than two hours. “I was sure he was lost,” Boteach said. 

It turned out, he wanted to buy a gift for his wife for their 50th anniversary. He was taking her on a cruise.