Print | Email  

Rabbi Boteach on Jackson

Last updated: 2003-11-19

Rabbi Boteach

Rabbi Boteach

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach very rarely does interviews about Michael Jackson. But his recent column in SomethingJewish about celebrity interest in Judaism upset some Michael Jackson fans. Rabbi Boteach agreed to an interview with a Michael Jackson message board and SJ offers extracts from the interview

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, thank you for finding some time to do a short interview with us about the man Michael Jackson. Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, welcome!

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach- Thank you, I am glad to speak to you. We will be talking mostly about Michael Jackson. How is your friendship with Michael nowadays?

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach- We have no real contact any longer. Nothing happened between us. Michael went back to the recording studio and I went back to my own work in teaching, writing, and broadcasting. We are not in a fight. Our interests went in separate directions. What happened to Heal The Kids?

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach- The initiative was only for one year. It did very good work and it had completed its mission of trying to get parents to prioritize their children. When Michael no longer had time for it there was no way it could continue so we were happy with the year it functioned and we left it at that. How do you feel about Michael right now?

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach- I feel fine about him. He is a flawed man, like all of us. And he has a lot of good points, like all of us. I am, however, very disturbed at what he revealed in the Martin Bashir interview that he allows boys to sleep in his bed. That is immoral and unacceptable. I take him at his word that nothing is happening between him and the boys. But that doesn’t make a difference. It is utterly unacceptable for a grown man to sleep in a bed with a boy that is not his son. Period. Are you aware of the fact that some Michael Jackson fans feel as if you've let Michael down.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach- What an absurd statement. If anything, the reverse is true. But I’m not going to get into that. I have not been critical of Michael, aside from condemning his admission that he takes boys into his bed. So I’m not going to be critical of him now. Judaism commands me never to gossip, and I don’t. Many magazines offered me interviews to say bad things about Michael which I would of course never consider. Indeed, I rarely do any interviews about him at all. I am a Rabbi who believes in G-d. Hence, I stay away from the celebrity culture which makes men and women – celebrities – into gods, and that is misguided and unacceptable.

Hence, I never really comment about Michael at all because my involvement with him was not about him as a celebrity, but about the work we did together to help kids. When that ended, our relationship essentially did as well. I have no interest in having superstar friends. My interest is pleasing G-d, working to help people, being a decent husband, and raising my seven children.

But our friendship is over because I only want to be involved with Michael when we are both involved in helping children. Is it true that either you or Uri Geller got in touch with Martin Bashir in the first place?

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach- Martin Bashir’s people contacted me several times to do an interview with Michael years ago. I constantly told Michael not to do it. And when we were still in a friendship, Michael didn't do it. I blocked their access to him. Not because I thought they would harm him, but because I told him his focus should not be on himself but on the children’s issues he wanted to promote. Get away from the self-aggrandizement and get back into championing children’s issues. But when our relationship ended, and my influence ended, he did the interview right away. That was a terrible mistake he made. What did you think of the Martin Bashir interview?

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach- Well, I told him not to do it and I thought it was ridiculous. It made Michael more famous and he does not need that. I like him as a person involved with children. He is a singer, an entertainer. But he happens to be famous and that means he can champion the cause of those without a voice. I told him constantly, “Michael, you’re famous enough. Forget stupid interviews for TV. Do respectable lectures about kids, in places like Oxford and Carnegie Hall, which were two events that we did together that I organized. Yet, instead of continuing along that path – and there were outstanding invitations from places like Harvard that I had organized – he did a stupid tabloid interview that made him look like an unbalanced cartoon character. I’m happy I wasn’t around to witness Michael’s self-destruction. I care about him a lot. We were very close. And it would have been terrible watching him destroy himself as he did in that horrible documentary.

But the fans have to remember one thing. Michael is not god. That is one of the things that amazed me while being with Michael in London. Some fans think of him as a deity. Some even love him more then they love their own husband or wife or  their kids or their parents. That’s sick stuff. Real sick and unforgivable. It is ridiculous to idolize any man or any woman, and Michael is just a man. It is wrong to make him larger than that. I can not understand why Michael does these stupid tabloid interviews that portray him as buffoon when he has a lot more to offer than that. I would want other things for him. I told him to go lecture in respectable Universities, go to Africa to help children, go to Israel and comfort children who have lost arms in terror bombs! Don't become any more famous. Become more serious.

And don't get me wrong here, I love Michael Jackson fans. All the fans I met were kind and special people. Really. But it is wrong for them to sleep outside his hotel in sleeping bags waiting to catch a glimpse of him. It is wrong. Let them go to Church or Synagogue instead. Let them go visit their grandparents or spend time with their siblings. We dare never deify any man, and that’s what many of them are doing. They treat him like he’s Jesus Christ. And Michael, as a man raised in a very religious home, should be the first to renounce the idolization of him. In your column at, you wrote something about Michael sleepovers with children. What is your opinion on this issue?

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach- What I wrote in that column is true. I know that Michael is great with children, he loves them and I assume he would never harm them. But it is immoral for any adult to have sleepovers with children. What Michael said during that Martin Bashir interview is totally wrong. When he said he sleeps with kids I got a pit in my stomach and wanted to throw up. What a terrible thing to do. He must stop immediately. Michael is not the one to determine whether that is good or bad, he is not God. It has to do with morality and he is not the arbiter of morality. I would say: stop immediately! I have always defended Michael on many things but on this, no way. I can't because it is so wrong. What was it like for you to be 'back' in Oxford with Michael, where you spent eleven years of your life serving as a Rabbi?

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach- Well, I go back to the UK very often. I lecture at the Oxford Union and places like that. I totally love it. I love Oxford. It will always have a very special place in my heart. Do you think Michael is in control of his own life?

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach- I can not tell because I have not spoken to Michael in 2 years. Which book would you advise for all of us wanting to learn more about Judaism?

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach- I would say a book that I wrote called, Judaism for Everyone: Renewing Your Life Through the Vibrant Lessons of the Jewish Faith. Didn't you say something about getting involved with Michael was one of the biggest mistakes of your life?

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach- No, I said that I made a mistake in believing that I needed Michael, or any other celebrity pairing, in order to get attention for Judaism and promote a Jewish message. And that is still true. Judaism has shaped the modern world along with its daughter religions of Christianity and Islam. It does not need Michael Jackson, or me, or any else, to lend it credibility.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, thank you again.

First appeared on