Roseanne invokes Jewish concept of ‘shmitta’ at Purim retreat


Former sitcom star Roseanne Barr spoke at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in Falls Village, Conn., during a Purim retreat March 14-16. Barr, who’s responsible for the ‘90s hit show Roseanne, which brought the issues and concerns of working-class America to the forefront, decided to speak during the retreat’s Shabbat lunch.

Barr, who famously ran for president in 2012, proceeded to talk to attendees about the topic of wealth redistribution and debt release, saying that although many support the concept, they don’t feel that they have a role in making it happen.

She then asked for a volunteer to step forward and talk about their debt issues. Lisa Nicolosi Balter, an owner of an organic tea company, raised her hand and spoke of a time she ran away from home as a teenager and the pain and suffering it caused for her family. Roseanne asked her how big of a debt she thought she owed for that, and Balter replied, “a billion dollars.”

Roseanne told her not to be unrealistic and asked how much she did have that she could use to pay back the debt. After a small back-and-forth, the woman offered that she had $5,000. Roseanne told her that she should release herself from her debt to the world by using the $5,000 to help others in need, and Balter agreed.

Roseanne then asked, “Who in this room needs $5,000?” Many raised their hands, including three struggling female artists. Roseanne heard their stories and said, “I’m going to go get that woman and bring her over here to introduce you. She’s going to give the three of you $5,000, and I’m going to match it.” After a teaching about shmitta and shared resources, Roseanne had actively redistributed wealth in the room, with two people who had money to give (both the woman and Roseanne), releasing part of their debts to the world by helping three women in need: one Jew, one Muslim and one Christian, who were all brought to tears. — I.Z.

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