Shea Hecht is the chairman of the board of the National Committee for the Furtherance of Jewish Education and a leading Chabad rabbi. He is the son of the late Rabbi Jacob J. Hecht, one of the closest confidants of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, Grand Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson.
Hecht is a fifth generation New Yorker, born in Brooklyn. Born to Rabbi J.J. and Chave Hecht he is one of twelve children. He was educated in the Lubavitch Yeshiva Central School System, where he received his rabbinic ordination.
He rose to prominence in the 1970s after he began a program that sought to remove and educate Jewish youths away from various cults. This inspired his autobiography Confessions of a Jewish Cult Buster.
As a community leader during the violent Crown Heights riot in 1991, Hecht worked across racial barriers in the pursuit of a harmonious side-by-side existence between the Hasidic and African-American communities. Along with Edison Jackson, he co-chaired the Crown Heights Coalition after its inception. For his leadership and service during the riots, he received the Buffalo Soldier Award.
Hecht was appointed by New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani as Commissioner of Human Rights and as member of the Police Task Force Committee. Additionally, in 1998, Mayor Giuliani appointed Hecht to the Committee for Proper Art in New York City.
Currently, he is a dean at Hadar Hatorah Yeshiva in Brooklyn, NY, a yeshiva dedicated to fostering the Baal Teshuvah movement, as well as a faculty member of the Ivy League Torah Study Program. He also served as the spiritual leader of the Seaview Jewish Center in Canarsie, Brooklyn.
Radio & press
After his father died, Hecht assumed the role of host of the "Shema Yisroel" radio program, a weekly one-hour show that focused on religion broadcast on WEVD in New York. Hecht was also featured as host alongside Felipe Luciano on the afternoon drive show on WWRL, and later moved to the morning drive show alongside Karen Hunter. He currently hosts the Dov Hikind show once a month on Sat night.
On May 4, 2014, Shea started a new family advice call in show for Israel National Radio. Israel National Radio is the online radio stating for Arutz Sheva.
Hecht is also known as Don King's rabbi. As a result of their friendship, King donated one million dollars to N.C.F.J.E. Hecht was also publicly seen at the trial of King in New York city. King also marched alongside Hecht in Crown Heights to further Jewish and Black relations.
As the son of the illustrious Rabbi J.J. Hecht he was born into the political arena. Although Chabad Rabbis normally do not directly back candidates for office Shea Hecht is different. Shea explains that the Rebbe gave his father special dispensation to endorse candidates for office. Shea has known to sway elections by giving candidates his support. Most notably in 1998, he backed Chuck Schumer instead of longtime incumbent Al D'Amato, acknowledging Schumer's help during the 1991 Crown Heights riot. Shea also backed Rudy Giuliani for his run for mayor of the city of New York in his first try at mayor in 1989. Shea was also the first Jewish leader to publicly back Scott Stringer for City Comptroller against former Governor Eliot Spitzer. He has written many op-eds over the course of his career supporting many candidates running for office. According to The Guardian International, Rabbi Shea Hecht has influence over as many as 200,000 voters in any given election.
Hecht is married to Bella (née Sufrin), the daughter of the late Rabbi A.D. Sufrin from London. Together they have ten children. His eldest son Rabbi Yitchok Hecht is a director of Chabad of Ulster County (NY). His son Levi Hecht is a real estate developer in New York, was named one of the "People to Watch" in the Hudson Valley in 2005. His son Rabbi Hanoch Hecht, also known as the 6 Minute Rabbi (for his quick, inspiring Torah lessons) is the director of Chabad of Dutchess County and the spiritual leader of the Rhinebeck Jewish Center in Rhinebeck, NY.
Shea's perspectives on sex-abuse have come under attack. In an article from the Tablet Magazine, Hecht maintains that rabbis should be granted the discretion to determine whether victims are lying before getting involved in a case of accused molestation. "The last time I remembered, I was ordained as a rabbi", said Hecht. "If the person [victim] came to me, I have at least the responsibility to decide if it’s true or not true, because they want guidance."
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