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Shmuley: I might run for office

NEW YORK (JTA) — Rabbi Shmuley Boteach says he is considering a run for public office after local officials failed to prevent a Libyan ambassador from moving in next door to him.

In an opinion piece published Thursday by JTA, Boteach said he was outraged that Libya’s ambassador to the United Nations, Abdurrahman Mohamed Shalgham, was permitted to take up residence in Englewood, N.J. The rabbi, best known for his book "Kosher Sex" and counseling the late pop star Michael Jackson, said that having the diplomat as his next-door neighbor has him angry enough to launch a career in politics.

"From the age of 16, all I ever wanted to be was a rabbi, someone who brings healing to broken lives and values to a needy culture. But for the first time in my life, I find myself contemplating a run for elective office. The reason is simple: The Talmud declares, ‘In a place where there are no men stand up and become one,’" Boteach wrote in his JTA piece. In conclusion, he added, "I wish to remain a rabbi who informs and influences politics from the outside. But if Gadhafi’s envoy remains my next-door neighbor with the tacit blessing of my elected leaders, I will do my best to unseat them by every legal means necessary."

Back in August and September, Boteach played a lead role in the successful campaign to keep Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi from staying at a house in Englewood during the U.N. General Assembly. But Shalgham recently moved into the property, owned by his government and located near Boteach’s home; the Libyan diplomat was able to do so under an agreement reached 25 years ago, according to a report in the New Jersey Jewish Standard. The deal reportedly limits the use of the Englewood property to Libya’s U.N. ambassador and his family.

Boteach said he was outraged when his friend and congressman, U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman (D-N.J.), was quoted by the newspaper as saying, "And so, I hope everyone will be appropriately good neighbors.”

"Is he seriously asking me to borrow a cup of sugar from a man whose government murdered American servicemen while they danced at a disco?" Boteach wrote.

In a statement issued to JTA, Boteach did not identify a specific office that he was eyeing, but listed the issues that were most important to him.

"My consideration of a possible run for elected office, which is currently in its earliest stages of review, revolves around my profound disappointment in my city’s unwillingness to take action against Gadhafi’s Ambassador being my next-door neighbor and the Libyan compound not contributing a penny in local tax," Boteach said in the statement. "In addition, I am a passionate advocate of school-choice. Religious parents in my area, both Jewish and non-Jewish, can no longer afford the astronomical New Jersey real estate taxes, not a penny of which goes to their children’s education. Public offices where I would be able to impact on these vital issues is what I am considering."

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