It’s sort of amazing watching Shmuley Boteach, a rabbi with no congregation other than an unwitting public, selling out Michael Jackson. He’s just published a book of interviews he taped with Michael back in 2000-2001. All the money goes to Boteach. There’s no charity involved. (Ironically, Boteach also recently published a book called “The Blessing of Enough: Rejecting Material Greed, Embracing Spiritual Hunger.”)
That wasn’t the case in 2000 when I met both Michael and Boteach together one November night. It was at the home of PR guru Howard Rubenstein. Boteach had convinced Michael to start a new charity with him called Time for Kids. They were going to teach parents to spend time with their children.
There were about 3o people in the Rubensteins’ Fifth Avenue living room. Boteach gave a long speech about Michael being the “most misunderstood” celebrity in the world, said he loved children so much he had mannequins of them in his Neverland bedroom. That revelation went over like a lead balloon.
On February 14, 2001, Time for Kids had its first and only get together, People bought tickets to see Michael, Boteach and assorted celebrities like Johnnie Cochran, Mother Love, Judith Regan, Chuck Woolery and Dr. Drew Pinsky talk about spending more time with children. The event was called “Love, Work, and Parenting: Can You Be a Success in the Bedroom, the Boardroom, and the Family Room?” It was only 70% full. The tickets were $40, $30, and $20.
Michael told the crowd, when he finally spoke: “I’m having trouble finding a date for myself even though Rabbi Shmuley tells me he’s going to find me the perfect woman. And I tell him, as long as it’s not a journalist!” Here’s a transcript of Michael’s speech.
When the accounting for the event finally came in on a Form 990, it showed (I reported then) a total of $203,185 collected from direct public support. At the same time, the charity’s expenses totaled $259,432. All but $20,000 of that was spent on staff salaries and office expenses. No money went to children of any kind.
Listed on the IRS filing were an organization president, secretary and treasurer. The latter two, this reporter discovered after making some calls, were Boteach’s sister and mother. The sister, Ateret Diveroli, repeated exactly what the mother had: “I’m not part of that anymore.”
Mrs. Diveroli insisted to me that her brother was “very honest” and had stopped working with Michael Jackson “because nothing was happening. He wasn’t doing anything.”
That was pretty much it for Michael and Shmuley’s friendship. There was a trip to Oxford a couple of months later, but by June 2001 Jackson’s “Invincible” album came out. In September he performed his 30th anniversary shows. Shmuley was gone. From the time Jackson was arrested in 2003 until his death, Boteach was out of his life. Jackson surely had no memory of making tapes with Boteach, and no desire to have them published.
And yet, Shmuley is back. He will flog his short, unheralded relationship to Michael Jackson for as long as the public — or TV bookers– can bear it. The real kicker: that his publicist sent out press releases yesterday, on Yom Kippur, offering copies of the book and excerpts. While every other rabbi in the world was praying, Shmuley Boteach was busy marketing Michael Jackson for profit. Buyer beware.