By Hannah Berman

Roseanne Barr is not my favorite human being. Years back, she was denounced for exhibiting crass behavior at a ballgame and she has made more than one disgusting comment about Jews. Although a Jew herself, she has not always been a fan of Jews. This should come as no surprise because her parents kept their Jewish heritage secret from their neighbors and were partially involved in a church. These are people I call self-hating Jews.

Having said all that, Roseanne’s most recent television show had recently become a favorite of mine. Her original television comedy series never appealed to me so I didn’t watch. But with the revival of her show, I decided to tune in because she is an avowed Trump supporter and I wanted to see what she would have to say. I wasn’t disappointed because I laughed out loud at most of the episodes.

Unfortunately, Roseanne is once again in the hot seat. Some comedians tend to put a foot in their mouths, but Roseanne has outdone them all. She put both feet in hers! She tweeted about a black woman resembling someone from Planet of the Apes. The tweet was followed by swift action by ABC. They canceled her show, and news of both the tweet and the cancellation are public knowledge. But Barr wasted no time. She immediately apologized to the woman that she had insulted and to every American. She said that she was not now, nor has she ever been, a racist. That, of course, is debatable.

One day later she gave an explanation for her tweet by claiming that she had taken Ambien that evening and wasn’t herself. Next, the manufacturers of Ambien issued the following disclaimer: Racism is not a known side effect of Ambien. That was both clever and amusing, but, as this writer knows from firsthand experience with Ambien, it isn’t about racism. It’s about uncharacteristic behavior.

Nobody knows for a fact if Roseanne is a racist, but we do know that she goes go out of her way to be funny and, while under the influence of that drug, she may have thought she was doing just that — being funny! Ambien can wreak havoc with the mind. It can make people say and do things they would not normally say or do, and these are not necessarily an indicator of their true feelings.

Seven years ago, I took Ambien to help me sleep. For the first few nights there were no side effects. It was a pleasure because I got more sleep on those nights than I had gotten in months. And then the axe fell.

I awoke on day six, a “Sunday morning,” and was surprised to discover that I had forgotten to put my candlesticks away the evening before, after Shabbos had ended. The day was bright and sunny which also surprised me because the forecast had been for heavy rain. Sunday was the day I attended my Weight Watchers meeting so I quickly dressed, grabbed my handbag, and raced out to the car. As I barreled down Peninsula Boulevard, I noticed people walking into the Young Israel of Woodmere, which is where I daven. “Hmm, there must be a b’ris today,” I thought to myself.

Fifteen minutes later, I arrived in Lynbrook, parked my car, and walked into the Weight Watchers meeting. Once inside, I sensed that something was off. The lecturer was not the woman who lectured every week, it was a male I had never seen before, and the ladies sitting behind the scales at the back of the room were all unfamiliar to me. Additionally, 40–50 people usually attend the meeting, but that day there was twice that number and I didn’t recognize any of them. Clearly, something was wrong but I had no idea what it was. As I stood on a line waiting to step on a scale, I tapped the shoulder of the lady in front of me and asked if this was the eight o’clock Sunday meeting or perhaps the nine o’clock meeting. She chuckled and said that it was the eight o’clock meeting but that it was Saturday, not Sunday.

There was no mirror available to me but my best guess is that I looked like a deer caught in the headlights. I was rooted to the spot, as if frozen, unable to move or to speak. There is no way to describe how I felt, but after a few seconds my reflexes kicked in and I raced out the door. It was a blistering hot August day, the walk back to my house would have taken me hours, and I was not wearing sneakers or walking shoes. Shabbos that day ended well after 9:00 p.m., which was more than 13 hours later. The meeting was held in a building that closes its doors at noon, and there I was with nowhere to go and nothing to do — except maybe faint!

Feeling ill, I got in my car and drove home. When I got to my neighborhood I kept my head down just low enough to still be able to see out the windshield. I knew Hashem understood my predicament. But I wasn’t sure that friends and neighbors would see it the same way if one of them should happen to see me driving. I was positively numb, and to this day I have no idea how I managed to drive.

I couldn’t get into my house fast enough, and as soon as I did, I planted myself on the den couch. I think my eyes were open but there is little doubt that I was actually asleep. It was hours before I was fully awake and able to function. My hope was that none of my children or grandchildren had seen me as I drove down the main street. It was an experience I will never forget.

It was also an experience that tells me that Roseanne may have given an honest explanation for why she tweeted what she did. This is not proof-positive that she isn’t a racist, but it pokes a large hole in the claim made by the drug’s manufacturers. While it is true that racism isn’t a side effect of Ambien, taking it may have caused her to think, say, and do things that she would not have if she had been fully awake. That’s just the way it is.

Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and gives private small-group lessons in mah-jongg and canasta. She can be reached at or 516-295-4435.


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