By Hannah Reich Berman
I was young when Joan Rivers made her first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. At the time, it didn’t occur to me that I was young. I was 22 years old and had two children. Fifty years have passed since then, and I now have grandchildren older than 22, so I know how young that actually is.
I didn’t like her. I mean Joan. She just didn’t hit my funny bone. Her voice and mannerisms annoyed me. In spite of the fact that she became a huge success over time, there is nothing strange about the fact that I didn’t like her. Every person has his preferences, which, as they say, is why we have chocolate and vanilla.
I didn’t, G‑d forbid, hate Joan Rivers; I simply didn’t enjoy her performances, so I never watched them. As recently as two years ago, I went with two friends to a movie that was a bio of her life. Since I never liked her, going to see that picture was obviously not my choice, but the other two wanted to see it, so I went along. I found it to be so vulgar and distasteful that I whispered to the other two that I wanted to leave. I said I would wait for them in the coffee shop on the next block and then take a walk or something. But that never happened. My pals felt the same way, so after less than 15 minutes, all three of us marched together out into the lobby. We asked for, and we got, our money back and we left.
And then things changed. It happened about a month ago. I saw a video clip on YouTube of Joan Rivers being interviewed at an airport. The reporter was questioning her about the war between Israel and Hamas. The questions that he asked her, and the manner in which he phrased them, made it abundantly clear that he felt Israel was guilty of killing hundreds of innocent Palestinians in Gaza.
And that is when it happened: Everything changed and I instantaneously became a Joan Rivers fan. Her voice and her mannerisms no longer irritated me because I no longer noticed them. My focus was on her words as she responded to the questions put to her. This was a different Joan Rivers, a woman who had a side I had never seen before. She spoke out, loud and clear, for Israel. She told the truth that many reporters and commentators, notably those employed by CNN, refuse to acknowledge. And at the same time that she was defending Israel’s position, she was funny. Very funny! Those who missed it really missed something clever. I probably watched it a dozen or more times.
Needless to say, since that moment just five or six weeks ago, I became a dedicated fan. Now I loved her. I appreciated her. I related to her. You get the idea. And now it is late Sunday afternoon and I am sitting and typing this on my computer, which sits right next to my television. As I type, I listen to the latest news of her condition. It doesn’t sound good, and I fear that by the time this appears in print, Joan Rivers may no longer walk among us.
And now I am deeply saddened. Now I have regrets. Why did I not know that she was on the right team? Why did I not know that she cared about her people and the state of Israel? Sure, I knew she was Jewish. Who didn’t know that? But so what? Not every Jew is a loyal one. I can probably name a dozen or more Jewish celebrities who have not uttered a single word in defense of Israel—a very famous and successful female singer, an equally famous and successful male film producer, and a male comic, among them. Where are they? Why haven’t any of them chosen to hold press conferences or seen to it that they were interviewed?
When I kvetch about that, and I do plenty of kvetching, people tell me that these folks, people in the arts, don’t want to be political. Maybe they worry about being blacklisted, or possibly there are other considerations. I don’t know and I don’t care. Who would be better to speak out for us if not them?
In the meantime, I have added Joan Rivers to the list of people for whom I daven. She is now on my Tehillim list, and I sincerely hope that Hashem hears. Hopefully He will listen to me, as I never listened to Joan Rivers. And that’s the way it is.
Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and is a licensed real-estate broker associated with Marjorie Hausman Realty. She can be reached at Savtahannah@aol.com or 516-902-3733.