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Michael Jackson and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach at Carnegie Hall in New York City, February 14, 2001. Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images
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Shmuley Boteach’s New Jersey Manse Is For Sale

Caveat emptor?

Rachel Shukert
April 04, 2016
Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images
Michael Jackson and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach at Carnegie Hall in New York City, February 14, 2001. Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

If you’re unlike me, you’ve got millions to spend on housing, so why not go for the celebrity variety?

In Los Angeles we kind of have a thing about celebrity real estate. You can barely look at a listing, even a rental listing, without reading that this here is the building where Mae West once had a condo; or that that guest cottage—over there!—was once, back in the day, rented by Buster Keaton while his other house was being renovated; or that David Schwimmer once parked his car in front of these garages—yes, those right over there!—when, say, he couldn’t find the damn valet but wanted to get inside the damn Emmy party already.

Whether this actually attracts or deters buyers, however, is unclear. Furthermore, history—at least the kind involving messy celebrity endings—does not seem to be on the side of the sale or rental. Take, for example, the house on Le Cielo Drive, where Sharon Tate and her friends were murdered by the Manson family, which hosted several occupants over the years, including Nine Inch Nails front man Trent Reznor, who had a recording studio there, but ultimately said “there was too much history in that house for me to handle.” Or the perfectly good condo building on North Bundy Drive, where Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman were found dead. That’s long gone, as is O.J.’s house on Rockingham—both demolished as though the wrecking ball could exorcise the bad juju of the past.

With this in mind—and with the millions you’re ready to splash on a new place—consider for a minute the manse of Shmuley Boteach, America’s self-appointed chief rabbi. That’s right, the home of the former host of TLC’s “Shalom in the Home” who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2012 and now runs the an organization called The Values Network, is on the market. For $3.5 million, it could be all yours, if, you know, you have a burning desire to live in Englewood, New Jersey (and really, who doesn’t?).

Boteach’s 8-bedroom, neo-Gothic stone house sits on 1.6 acres and comes with old world details like a carriage house that he once tried to turn into an on-site synagogue but couldn’t because of zoning ordinances (womp, womp). But what truly strikes me about this home is that it looks exactly, almost disturbingly so, like the house of Tevye’s dreams as detailed in the inimitable Fiddler tune, “If I Were A Rich Man” (sing along if you like):

I’d build

A big, tall house

With rooms by the dozen

Right in the middle of the town

A fine, tin roof

With real wooden floors below

There would be one long staircase just going up

And one even longer coming down

And one more leading nowhere, just for show

The chicks and turkeys and geese and ducks you’d presumably have to provide yourself, although this shouldn’t be a problem—at least, that is, if this home were in Los Angeles County where you can have up to 13 backyard chickens without having to legally declare yourself a poultry farm. Oh, wait, I’m sorry. That’s my “If I Were A Rich Man” fantasy, the fruit of my internet searches that provide my imagination with considerations of llamas, alpacas, and pigs, because look, we’re not in the shtetl anymore and I like them. And I don’t know what the laws are in New Jersey exactly, but send Chris Christie a jumbo-size box of M&M’s and I’m sure he’ll be cool with it.

Now, back to the phantoms of the Reznor and Manson homes. The question, should you be considering Boteach’s crib for purchase, is: Will you be able to handle the history here? Considering Boteach, you must wonder if will you really be able to live in this house without constantly hearing the ghost of Reb Shmuley’s effusive voice in your head? Can you handle the remnants of Shmuley’s presence inserting itself into your marital squabbles with some out-of-context biblical wisdom? What about his recollections of his deep spiritual relationship with Michael Jackson, or when reverberations occur through the house filled with passages from his book Kosher Sex? These snippets of wisdom will, of course, come out like those guys in Washington Square Park who invite your boyfriend to shake the lulav in a makeshift sukkah, but then casually turn to you and inquire about the frequency and quality of your orgasms. (Yeah, right.)

But why not try it out?! You don’t have to commit, not when you can rent a two-bedroom unit in the unsanctified carriage house for $1,925 a month—because what, it should sit empty? And then you can plan your big staircase going up, and the longer one coming down, and how you’re going to get out of paying $66,000 a year in property tax, just like Shmuley did.

God may have the power to make you a rich man, but staying one? That you’ve got to do for yourself.

Rachel Shukert is the author of the memoirs Have You No Shame? and Everything Is Going To Be Great,and the novel Starstruck. She is the creator of the Netflix show The Baby-Sitters Club, and a writer on such series as GLOW and Supergirl. Her Twitter feed is @rachelshukert.

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