Roseanne Pitches Kabbalah Centre

Despite its location on Robertson Boulevard near Pico, the Kabbalah Centre is miles away from any traditional concept of Judaism. That hardly mattered to the 150 or so young, hip Angelenos who crowded into the center March 21. Eager to learn more about this blend of self-help spirituality and study of the ancient text of the Zohar, the audience was also drawn by the fame of the speaker, celebrity member Roseanne.

A spate of celebrity attendance at Kabbalah Centre classes in the late 1990s attracted enormous publicity, including a 1997 cover story in The Jewish Journal. That Hollywood fad has since subsided, but a recent evening lecture by TV star Roseanne (née Barr, formerly Arnold) demonstrated the enduring draw of both celebrity and spirituality. The evening, billed as an introduction to the center for 18- to 27-year-olds, drew many young professionals employed in or aspiring to the entertainment industry. They came in search of career advice as well as spiritual guidance, interested in following the speaker’s success.

Roseanne’s musings on her experience with the Kabbalah Centre included both the practical and the more controversial, unorthodox aspects of the Kabbalah Centre’s teachings. “The first thing I learned here was that the reason everyone bugs me was that they’re a mirror of me,” said the comedienne, who has been well known for her thorny personality. She also credits kabbalah study with improving her comedy, noting, “Now I have the entire universe to make fun of. God gave us laughter; everything is funny.”

The evening’s advice also included some of the center’s more controversial practices. Referring to the practice of “scanning,” or running one’s fingers over the words of the Zohar rather than reading in order to achieve “the light” of kabbalah, Roseanne noted, “I feel the DNA of myself change when I scan.” Another benefit of her kabbalah study: “I believed I was a mortal being before I began to study. Now I believe we never have to die in a physical sense, if we protect ourselves from mortal consciousness.”

Quite obvious to all in attendance was the relative peace and personal strength that the actress has found in her studies at the Kabbalah Centre. But for anyone who might mistake the organization for an offshoot of a mainstream Jewish movement, even this supporter was clear that this is not the case. When asked how the Kabbalah Centre has affected her attitude toward Judaism, she answered simply, “I feel the very same way about traditional Judaism as I felt when I never went to synagogue.”


The good news is that Roseanne may have finally found three nice Jewish boys as suitors for her three daughters. The bad news is that the boys live in England and the girls in Los Angeles.

American television viewers can watch the long-distance romance unfold on “The Roseanne Show,” on May 20 and 25.

First, some background. A few months ago, the outspoken television host voiced a desperate motherly plea for volunteers to marry her daughters and fulfill her dream of becoming a grandmother.

She stipulated some rigid requirements: Suitors must be Jewish, mentally stable, have most of their teeth, and not be money-sucking leeches. In return, she offered “girls who never get up, always complain, and who are lazy and smoke.”

Despite this tempting inducement, few worthy candidates applied. Roseanne’s quest seemed stymied until an expert matchmaker recently materialized on her show, in the person of Rabbi Shmuley Boteach (pronounced Bo-tay-ach). The 32-year-old Orthodox rabbi was barnstorming across the United States, pitching his best-selling book, “Kosher Sex,” and its just released prequel, “Dating Secrets of the Ten Commandments.”

Born in Los Angeles, Boteach founded the L’Chaim Society at Oxford University as “a high-profile Jewish education organization that hosts world figures and promotes Jewish culture.”

Well, Roseanne and Boteach, two loquacious extroverts, quickly realized that the 1,000 Jewish students at Oxford represented a large pool of eligible young men who might prove the answer to a mother’s prayer.

The rabbi, who knows a mitzvah — not to mention a great publicity gimmick — when he sees one, promised to hasten back to Oxford and come back with “three strapping British lads,” naturally of the Mosaic faith.

As good as his word, Boteach returned last week with the three lads, who were met by a black stretch limousine and whisked to the upscale Bel Age Hotel.

They weren’t all British or all Oxford students but, indeed, highly presentable, obviously intelligent, and well-mannered enough to treat the lark as the serious foray into Jewish matchmaking envisioned by Boteach, whose favorite appellation is “The Relationships Rabbi.”

At the following day’s taping, the three men introduced themselves to Roseanne and 2 million television viewers. They were Dorian Barag, 27, of Los Angeles, and Scott Silverman, 24, of Chicago, both attending Oxford on scholarships, and Jay Sinclair, 24, a London kosher caterer.

Their predetermined respective dates were Brandi, 27; Jennifer, 22; and Jessica, 23.

That evening, the three couples, with TV crew in tow, were chauffeured to the trendy Tokyo Delve’s Sushi Bar in glamorous North Hollywood, and then danced the night away at the Redrock Bar on the Sunset Strip.

A day later, the couples returned to the studio for the taping of the second segment and to brief Roseanne and Boteach on the results of their matchmaking efforts.

Here are some excerpts from the ensuing dialogue:

Jessica: “Jay is very sincere and down to earth. He’s not a liar or a freak.”

Roseanne: “Is there romance in the air?”

Jessica: “I like him.”

Roseanne: “Wow, fantastic.”

(Enthusiastic audience applause.)

And a little later:

Scott: “Jennifer is a beautiful woman, the woman of every man’s dreams. We had spectacular conversations.”

Boteach: “I am a super matchmaker. I dare not fail, and I’ll follow them all year. If you guys dare go out with other women, you’ll have to deal with me.

“This is a kosher relationship. The boys put the girls first; they are not ashamed to show their affection. All you [Roseanne] have to do now is bring the glass and the chuppah.”

On this promising note, hosts and visitors parted with the promise to meet in London for a follow-up show. — Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor