In an atmosphere that was part Trump rally, part Hollywood confessional, a combative and bitter yet tearful and vulnerable Roseanne Barr took to the stage in Tel Aviv Monday night to lament the abrupt end to her mainstream showbiz career last year.
The actress-comedian was clearly buoyed by the support she received by a cheering crowd, who were sympathetic to the narrative delivered by Barr and her onstage friend – spiritual adviser and dedicated media cheerleader Rabbi Shmuley Boteach.
In her appearance before 200 people – primarily immigrants from English-speaking countries, participating in a Tel Aviv International Salon event – Barr relived the trauma of the past year.
It was one that saw her fired from her hit ABC sitcom “Roseanne” after a controversial tweet, encompassing a narrative in which she says she fell victim to the Hollywood elite’s dislike of her support for President Donald Trump and the fact she was a “proud Jew” and Zionist.
“I like to call it being BDSed by ABC,” Barr said, referring to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel that both she and Boteach said they were dedicated to battling, and which she has called a “Nazi boycott.”
The New Jersey rabbi lamented the fact that despite Barr’s apologies for her tweet – which referred to former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett as “muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj," which Barr attributed to taking a sleeping aid and for which she subsequently apologized – she was ousted from her show and is currently persona non grata in Hollywood, where “there is no forgiveness,” said Boteach. “It’s one strike and you are destroyed, demolished, finished!”
Roseanne interjected: “If you’re a Jew.”
‘There is no occupation!’
Looking tired and impatient as she took the stage, Barr brushed off moderator Jessica Steinberg’s initial attempts to draw her in with questions about her childhood growing up Jewish among Mormons in Salt Lake City.
Her energy returned, though, when the conversation turned to her fiercely pro-Israel politics and battles against Jew-hatred. She earned a standing ovation at one point after declaring, “I voted for Trump because he promised to move the embassy and recognized Jerusalem!”
In a passionate defense of the president against accusations of racism, Barr theorized that Trump “loves Jewish people and that’s why they hate him, I think. They hate him because he likes us.”
Barr was equally outspoken about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: “There is no occupation,” she said. “The only occupation I see is they built a dome on top of our Temple [the Temple Mount] and I’m not allowed to pray at my holiest site.”
Her appearance Monday followed a similar forum the previous evening in Jerusalem, during which Barr called the first two Muslim women elected to the House of Representatives, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, "Hamas in Congress," and asserted there were no Democrats in Congress who support Israel.
In Tel Aviv, Barr’s pro-Trump and pro-Israel messaging – interrupted several times by an angry heckler, who was eventually escorted outside – was amplified at length by Boteach, the celebrity-loving New Jersey rabbi.
Boteach, who co-hosts a podcast with Barr in which the two discuss the Torah portion of the week, has become the comedian’s very public champion in the eye of the storm that last May put an end to her hitherto impressive television comeback.
Looking back, Barr described a narrative in which the fact she was a vocal Trump supporter who wanted to inject the country’s painful politics into her family comedy doomed her comeback from the start. She said ABC’s then-president, Channing Dungey (who subsequently fired Barr), “didn’t really want my show” because “she was friends with the Obamas and other people in power,” and had “an attitude” toward her.
Barr said Dungey hadn’t liked her vision of showing a TV family where people had differing political views yet “still loved each other.” Barr said she had “tried to do some healing and “put a crimp in the hate business.”
Her claimed her infamous late-night tweet was deeply misunderstood. “I wasn’t saying black people look like monkeys,” she said. Instead, as she has tweeted in the past, she said it was political commentary that “the work of Valerie Jarrett’s hands – the Iran deal – turned Iran into a science-fiction movie where mullahs sit at the top.” “Planet of the Apes,” she said, had always been one of her favorite movies and she thought its message was “very Jewish.”
“I apologize to people who didn’t understand my tweet,” she told the audience. “I could add that they were too goddamn stupid to know what I was talking about, but that would be rude.”
Barr began to weep as she recalled the pain of being viewed as a racist. “I have African-American children in my family and African-American friends and colleagues, and I felt so bad for them,” she said.
She added she had signed over the rights to her show – which ABC renamed “The Conners” and killed off Barr’s character – so the cast and crew could continue to work, but particularly the African-American actor, Jayden Rey, who played her granddaughter in the show.
“They tried to kill me, they tried to end my life, and then they wrote me out of my own show with an opiod overdose which was so disrespectful,” Barr said.
The pain of betrayal was still fresh as she described how “people I gave jobs to piled on” in the wake of the scandal.
Barr directed particular animus at three actresses – Sara Gilbert, Sandra Bernhard and Kathy Griffin – all of whom she said she had championed after “the network said they were too ugly to be on television.” In the heat of the scandal, Barr said, Griffin “called me a Nazi” and Gilbert “said she thinks I’m a fascist.”
“In hindsight,” she added bitterly, “I should have listened” to the sexist network execs. “They are all really ugly people.”
She declared that “I don’t forgive them and I never will,” but later added the caveat that “I would forgive them if they apologize, but they won’t because leftists never do.”
At the first mention of the Jarrett tweet, an audience member called out supportively that Barr “was right!” The star visibly brightened when she heard that. “You have no idea what that means to me,” she responded. “And you have no idea what I’ve been through – it’s been the most horrible thing. Thank you for your support.”
Later in the evening, as she surveyed the cheering crowd with satisfaction, she said, “I’m thinking to maybe not go back” to the United States.
This isn’t the first time Barr has publicly flirted with the idea of moving to Israel, usually in jest, and often paired with an aspiration to run for prime minister.
Boteach joked that Barr had been in Israel for five days as the country is gearing up for its April 9 general election, yet “you have not declared you are a candidate for prime minister.”
“God hasn’t put those words in my mouth yet,” she told Boteach. “But I think I’d make a really good prime minister.”
Barr has visited Israel before but this is her first trip with Boteach, who specializes in drawing in celebrities. The list of his famous pals is long and diverse, including the late Michael Jackson, Oprah Winfrey, Elie Wiesel, Pamela Anderson, Dr. Mehmet Oz and Sean Penn.
Over the past two years, though, Boteach has been an advocate for Trump and defended his former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, in the face of those who associated him with white supremacism.
Beyond Trump and Bannon, Boteach’s most public project over the past year has been Barr, who appeared weeping and apologetic on his podcast in the wake of the ABC fiasco.
Barr’s Tel Aviv appearance took place the day after International Holocaust Remembrance Day. She talked about childhood memories of living among the Holocaust survivors her grandparents had brought to live in their Salt Lake City apartment building in the 1950s, and who she said told her “horrible and terrifying stories that affected me deeply forever.
“I was repulsed by humanity at a very early age, and it never changed,” she added.
Though her family spent a period of time in the Mormon Church, Barr said she never really abandoned Judaism and always pursued Jewish religious study. She said her interest had intensified 25 years ago at Hollywood’s Kabbalah Center, where she said, laughing, she taught Torah to “really rich people who did really terrible things.”
Barr and Boteach famously met on her short-lived talk show, when she told him she wanted her daughters to meet and marry Jewish men. They planned a show where he would bring on marriage prospects – a perfect marriage of Jewish identity.
Boteach said it was “inspiring” and rare in show business to meet “proud Jews – and Roseanne was so proud.”
Barr agreed she was unusual creature in Los Angeles’ Jewish landscape. “The Jews of Hollywood are disconnected from their heritage and history, and they are terrified of being shamed for being a real Jew,” she charged. “They are just Jews because they eat bagels, and they don’t have a spiritual strength and I feel sorry for them.”
When the pair met, “I was amazed this woman had defended Israel for so many years,” Boteach said. “Roseanne has been fighting for the disenfranchised her entire life.” He said, indignantly, he added American Jews to the list of those for whom Barr had stood up who then turned their back on her in her time of pain. “Where was the pro-Israel community?” he asked. “If we don’t stand up for people who stand up for Israel, where are we?”
Barr’s advocacy has primarily taken the form of trolling on Twitter and YouTube – a pastime she says she relishes but tends to indulge in anonymously these days.
“I troll on YouTube 12 hours a day. I tell people: ‘You’re a Jew-hating fascist, you’re not a liberal!’ I have a lot of fake accounts. I love it,” she said.
‘Bitch, shut up!’
She professed love for controversial Israel advocates and Trump supporters online, including right-wing provocateur Laura Loomer, who has harassed congressional candidates and invaded the stage at the recent Women’s March in New York.
Barr also spoke affectionately of African-American conservative commentator Candace Owens, who she called her sister-in-arms when it came to moving ethnic minorities from left to right. “My friend Candace Owens and I say: We have to get the Jews to leave the socialist plantation.”
She dismissed left-wing feminists as “a bunch of Jew haters,” and called the leadership of the Women’s March “disgusting.”
Asked by an audience member about that group’s anti-Semitism controversy, she replied: “All my life I’ve fought for having women's voices included in the media. But now I’m like, “Bitch, shut up!” Advocating for war and division just doesn’t seem so feminist to me.”
Barr’s visit to Israel was underwritten by Boteach’s World Values Network, an organization whose funding sources are undeclared but which frequently holds events honoring or featuring Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson. Boteach frequently sings the praises of Adelson and his wife Miriam in his columns, which are distributed in outlets ranging from The Jerusalem Post to Breitbart News.
Boteach, who bills himself alternatively as “America’s Rabbi” and “the most famous rabbi in America,” first won fame as the author of books like “Kosher Sex” and become a reality TV star with his show “Shalom in the Home.”
Barr and Boteach touched down in Israel last Thursday. Her first stop on Friday was the West Bank, where she visited the settlement of Peduel guided by Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan and praised settlers as "the pioneers at the forefront of the State of Israel."
On Sunday, Barr got a tour of the Old City from Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev, who took her to the Western Wall as well as to Wittenberg House, a building in the Muslim Quarter in which future Prime Minister Ariel Sharon purchased an apartment in 1987. It is now owned by right-wing NGO Ateret Cohanim, which promotes Jewish settlement in Arab areas of the Old City.
Rounding out the tourist experience, Barr went to Yad Vashem and the Mount Herzl national cemetery. After her Tel Aviv speech, Boteach said, they would be heading north with Barr set to visit the Syrian border.