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Tuesday, 6 March, 2001, 15:59 GMT
The rabbi, the psychic and the pop star
Firm friends: Michael Jackson and Rabbi Boteach
Michael Jackson, Uri Geller and Shmuley Boteach make for one of the most unlikely of trios.

An international pop superstar, a psychic and a Rabbi may not seem to share the stuff of friendship but the three men have enjoyed a common celebrity and a habit of flirting with controversy.


We're going to create a community of people worldwide who read their children bedtime stories

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

Rabbi Boteach was once described as the "great young hope of the Jewish community" but his calling has moved more towards self-help books since he arrived in England 13 years ago.

A 32-year-old father of six, he made his name as the author of a controversial book, Kosher Sex.

The book, which encouraged Jews to have more sex, touched a few nerves when it was serialised in Playboy magazine.

He was publicly criticised by fellow Jews and was forced to resign from the synagogue where he preached in Willesden, north London.

uri geller
Uri Geller: Famous for bending spoons
An American, he had arrived in Oxford in 1988 and established the L'Chaim Society for Jewish students.

It is now one of the largest societies at the university.

But the rabbi was soon embroiled in controversy. It was reported in the national press that donations to the society were used to help pay for Boteach's second home in London.

"This is a totally normal process in the United States. And why should I have to pay for another home," he told The Guardian.

"My innovative method of drawing in new Jews has always generated much antagonism and this is part of an ongoing campaign to discredit me," he was quoted as saying in The Daily Telegraph.

Michael Jackson
Jackson is often seen wearing an anti-pollution mask
He returned to the US in 1998 after 10 years in the UK and is based in New York.

He has since set up a Jewish singles network and written a book, Dating Secrets of the Ten Commandments.

His latest book Confessions of a Rabbi and a Psychic is based around letters between Boteach and Geller after they struck up a friendship.

The Rabbi was introduced to Michael Jackson by Geller, the famous spoon-bending psychic.

Paranormal

The two men met when the Jewish Chronicle chose them to share a platform, debating the power of prayer during Jewish Book Week.

The man of faith and the man of the paranormal quickly became friends, and Uri Geller later brought Jackson into the circle of friendship.

The singer and the rabbi see each other regularly, and speak often on the phone.

"Michael really is a very traditional guy", he has said of his superstar friend.

'Putting kids first'

The Rabbi has also persuaded Jackson to write articles the British newspaper, Jewish Chronicle.

Last September, Rabbi Boteach and Michael Jackson conceived the idea of Heal the Kids, a charity aimed at re-establishing the importance of children to their parents.

Rabbi Boteach told BBC News: "Heal the Kids is about getting parents to enjoy their children again, about putting their kids first.

"We're going to meet twice a year, we're going to create a community of people world-wide who read their children bedtime stories."

Donations

The charity will pay for television, radio and newspaper adverts about celebrities who have dinner with their children, he said.

According to the charity its aim is to "encourage adults to reprioritise children, trusting that, by bringing our children from the periphery of our attention to the centre of our daily consciousness, we can imbue them with the love and devotion which they so badly need and break the cycle of neglect".

A book club, free phone calls for parents away on business trips and support for World Children's Day are all part of the pledges.

The charity's website calls for volunteers and donations to help the project get off the ground.

See also:

06 Mar 01 | Entertainment
Oxford set for Jackson thriller
05 Mar 01 | Entertainment
Jackson's CD spree
05 Mar 01 | Entertainment
Oxford's star chamber
28 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Injured Jackson keeps Oxford date
23 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Jackson to 'surprise world'
09 Jan 01 | Entertainment
Jackson sets Oxford date
05 Mar 01 | Entertainment
Jackson's life in the spotlight
05 Mar 01 | Entertainment
A life in pictures: Michael Jackson
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