TEL AVIV — Hip denim hangs from a single circular rail above polished hardwood floors. Healing crystals are laid out neatly on a shiny mirrored table. At first glance, the stylish boutique on Tel Aviv’s Montefiore Street looks like any other fancy store in this swanky part of the city.

Look closer, and you’ll realize that what’s on sale here is something not found anywhere else in the world: kosher sex.

The shop is named for the controversial, best-selling self-help book “Kosher Sex: A Recipe for Passion and Intimacy” published 20 years ago by American celebrity rabbi Shmuley Boteach. Kosher Sex — the store — was opened last month by Chana Boteach, the rabbi’s daughter, and sells products meant to induce a healthy dose of sexual intimacy and spirituality between committed couples. “People are broken and lonelier than ever before,” said Chana Boteach, 29.

“We are reclaiming sex and helping to create passion and intimacy between two people.”

Not exactly what most think of when thinking of Israel.

According to Boteach, and her father before her, Judaism has a unique approach to sexual intimacy: Sex is not meant only for procreation but should not serve solely as recreation. Instead, the religion embraces anything that encourages a close and loving connection between two people.

Boteach, who moved to Israel from the United States nine years ago, said that although the store has a clear Jewish message derived from holy Jewish texts — hence “kosher” sex — it also has “something that everyone can relate to.”

Her customers, she said, come from “all walks of life.” Religious and secular, Jewish and not, married and single. “They are people who are craving to give sexuality more meaning.”

The recently opened Kosher Sex store in Tel Aviv, where owner Chana Boteach hopes to give sex “the revolution it deserves.” (Ruth Eglash/For The Washington Post)
The recently opened Kosher Sex store in Tel Aviv, where owner Chana Boteach hopes to give sex “the revolution it deserves.” (Ruth Eglash/For The Washington Post)

Kosher products that ‘rescue marriages from the morgue’

The store itself is gleaming and airy and open, unlike the kind of “red-light district” shops — as Boteach puts it — in some other parts of Tel Aviv. Boteach added that the inventory has been carefully selected to be both “elegant and tasteful.”

Delicately handling one of the silicone toys, she said the spongy material is uniquely designed to fit the contours of a woman’s body. A gold necklace dangling on a display can also double as a sex prop, said Boteach: “For wives to send a subtle message to their husbands about fun later on.” Some of the more high-end products, such as the crystal toys, cost as much as $170.

None of what is on sale is meant to replace a husband, Boteach said. In Judaism, men are commanded to please their wives in the bedroom, and all the products are meant to assist them in doing just that.

Writing about his daughter’s store after it was first publicized in the Jerusalem Post, Shmuley Boteach said “products that rescue marriages from the morgue are absolutely kosher, seeing that they allow husbands and wives to connect through the medium of passion and pleasure.”

He also saluted his daughter’s efforts to bring the core ideas of intimacy and commitment to her generation. “As it turns out, they might be the ones that most need these values,” he wrote.

A window display at the Kosher Sex store in Tel Aviv. (Ruth Eglash/For The Washington Post)
A window display at the Kosher Sex store in Tel Aviv. (Ruth Eglash/For The Washington Post)

‘I want people to come in and not feel ashamed’

Chana Boteach said her long-term business goal is to see Kosher Sex stores opening in the United States. In the meantime, she shares retail space with a friend, a fashion designer reimagining denim clothing much in the same way she is reimagining sex. The presence of clothing also helps soften the emphasis on products that some might find uncomfortable or embarrassing.

On a recent day, a group of young women browsed through a rail of denim, then pivoted to a Kosher Sex display. After a while, one of them surreptitiously popped her newly purchased product into her eco-friendly canvas bag and walked out.

“I want people to come in and not feel ashamed; now they can look at the clothing and then turn their attention to the sexy side of the store,” Boteach said.

She recounted how a 79-year-old man recently came into the store and bought a gift for his wife for their 50th wedding anniversary. “He said it was her first” adult toy, Boteach recalled.

Selling sex, even the kosher variety and even in the very liberal city of Tel Aviv, can provoke a backlash, though Boteach said the store has received mostly positive feedback.

“I understand that not everyone is comfortable with what I am doing here,” she said.

“They think it’s too forward, but they are the ones who do not understand Judaism and sexuality.”

There is one thing undeniably old-school about Kosher Sex. Like most businesses in Israel, it closes before sundown on Fridays and does not open at all on Saturdays in observance of the Sabbath.

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