When Michael Jackson and I were close and I served as a spiritual confidante, I was criticized by some people who believed that I was pushing him toward embracing Judaism. Michael more than anyone knows how false that charge is. On the contrary-I did the exact opposite. I pushed Michael constantly to reconnect with his Christian roots. I repeatedly encouraged Michael to return to church for much-needed strength and stability. Judaism, virtually alone among the religions of the world, is not a proselytizing faith and we actively discourage those who seek to join because we do not believe they upgrade their existence by doing so. I never pushed Michael toward Judaism, despite his enormous need for a spiritual foundation in his life, based on my profound belief that all religions that believe in G-d and goodness are authentic. My desire was to reunite him with, rather than pull him away from, the Christianity he was raised in.
But as inappropriate as it would have been for me to get in the way of Michael's Christian faith, it is equally inappropriate for me not to speak out in support of allowing his children to connect with their Jewish roots, now that they have been revealed.
Many of Michael's fans have attacked me vociferously of late for daring to criticize the pop legend. But since my concern for Michael is genuine, I cannot help speaking out against the tragic direction his life has taken-as I fear that he may, G-d forbid, end up like his one-time father-in-law and fellow pop superstar, Elvis. I have repeatedly said that I do not believe that Michael Jackson is a child molester. But to hold one's tongue at this most critical juncture in Michael's life, where he seems to have detached himself from any semblance of normality, is to be the real villain. I was only 11 years old when Elvis Presley died, yet I remember every detail. The biggest question asked at the time was, "How could the people around him have allowed it to happen?" Michael must be prodded by all who care about him to radically restructure his life.
It is in the spirit of that mandatory reorganization that I put to Michael the following request: Michael, do the right thing and make sure your children are raised as Jews. Keep them far away from Nation of Islam. Do not raise them in a tradition that is not only alien to them, but hostile to their congenital faith. The leader of Nation of Islam, Louis Farrakhan, has said that "Hitler was a very great man" and has characterized Judaism as "a gutter religion." Even your worst detractors, Michael, would never say that you're a racist or a bigot. On the contrary, you always told me how you pride yourself on being open to all. So please get away from these intolerant people. More importantly, please make sure they have no influence over your children.
The fifth commandment obligates children to honor their father and mother. Win over America by reaching out to your children's Jewish mother and inviting her to be part of their lives. Hire a Jewish tutor who can teach Prince and Paris the Hebrew scriptures and the beauty of the Sabbath. Two years ago you wrote a piece about the Sabbath, in which you described how as a Jehovah's Witness you went door to door every Sunday spreading the faith. As you were taught by your own mother, a devout and pious woman, the importance of G-d's day, see to it that your children can be taught this lesson by a learned Jewish teacher.
Many were the times you honored me and my family by ordering kosher food at your home so that we could eat, and even made a Hanukkah party for us at your hotel suite entirely catered by a kosher restaurant. Do the same now for two people who are infinitely closer to you.
You often told me that you attribute your professional success to the talent G-d showered upon you. When I gave you a mezuzah as a gift-the Hebrew scroll of parchment containing the Shema, the fundamental prayer of Judaism, that is affixed to the door-you told me that you would cherish it because it would honor G-d's place in your life. Please see to it that your children's bedrooms have that mezuzah up now, so that they too can feel that G-d watches over them at every instant.
Amid my criticism of your recent actions, all said out of a desire to see you successfully rehabilitate your life, there is one thing that I have always maintained that-with the exception of not having Prince and Paris's mother as part of their lives, and with the exception of that unfortunate baby-dangling incident-you are a loving and involved father. Watching the infinite affection you gave those two beautiful children, to whom my family and I became very attached, taught me much about how to be a more patient and available parent.
Now go the extra step. Make sure that Prince and Paris are afforded the opportunity to make Jewish choices in their lives.