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August 01, 2003 - Image 75

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-08-01

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growing up in a work-
ing-class Jewish family
that was profoundly
scarred by the
Holocaust. Her grand-
parents, who lost all
their relatives in Nazi
concentration camps,
ran an apartment
house for survivors in
Salt Lake City.
"When I was 3,
they would recount
things in front of me,
which horrified me so
badly," she says.
It didn't help that
"Like many people, she on a spiritual path to try to
non-Jewish neighbors
become the best person possible," says executive producer
told Roseanne and her
R.J. Cutler, on the set with Barr.
family they were des-
tined to roast in hell.
mysticism with self-help spirituality.
As a result, Barr's mother, Helen, was
Barr started meditating daily, and in
so paranoid she hid her children in the 1999 she and Yardeni visited Israel, a
basement when the doorbell unexpect-
trip she regards as "the bat mitzvah I
edly rang.
never had."
"She said, 'Don't ever tell anyone
She immersed herself in an ancient
you're Jewish,' and we had to pretend
mikvah and wrapped red string
like we were Mormon," Barr recalls.
around Rachel's tomb, which she now
"I truly believed that if people found
wears around her wrist "to remind me
out we were Jewish, they were going to
to keep my big mouth shut when I'm
kill us. First I learned to be fearful, and ready to say something nasty."
second, to cover that up with rage."
On her reality show, she sometimes
Barr = who performed skits after
can't resist saying something nasty,
the Sabbath evening meal — discov-
screeching at her relatives or making
ered that laughter provided the best
supercilious comments such as, "I'm
defense against the neighbors. It also
the genius. I'll take care of the
helped shield her from her volatile
salesman father, a comedy fan who let
Nevertheless, she evinces interest in
her mouth off if she was funny.
bringing spirituality into all areas of
"He taught me that comedy was
her life, occasionally to comic effect.
mightier than the pen and the sword,"
In one sequence, Yardeni and another
Barr told the New Yorker in 1995.
rabbi, an expert "face reader," help
When she began making a name for
Barr pick an executive producer.
herself on the comedy circuit in the
While viewing videotaped interviews
early 1980s, the young housewife's
with the candidates, the rabbis study
material was cutting.
their facial features and make remarks
"My husband comes home and says, such as, "The nose is about the hon-
`Don't you think we should talk about
esty of the person."
our sexual problems?'" she would say.
One of Barr's friends asks the
"Like I'm going to turn off Wheel of
inevitable question: What if the per-
Fortune for that."
son has had a nose job?
As Barr rose to the top of the come-
"You've got to see before and after,"
dy world, she continued her Jewish
the expert replies.
journey. Even though her mother sent
Eventually the mercurial Barr herself
her to church as well as Orthodox reli-
tears up the rabbis' recommendations
gious school, she says, "I always
— although she ultimately selects the
remained interested in Judaism."
person they suggest.
In the early 1990s, she wed husband
"The story on the show is that I
No. 2, Tom Arnold, a convert to
have an angel on one shoulder and a
Judaism, in a Jewish ceremony.
devil on the other," she says. "The
On her daytime talk program, The
internal struggle between the two
Roseanne Show, in 1998, she
opposites is powerful but also kind of
announced a personal ad seeking
funny." ❑
"three normal, healthy, Jewish single
men" for her three daughters.
The Real Roseanne Show debuts 9
Then there were her studies at the
p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 6, on ABC.
Kabbalah Centre, which blends Jewish

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