I don’t have cable, so it took me a while to realize that
Jon Stewart is Jewish. It’s obvious if you watch him perform, but
how was I supposed to know? I watch TV the way God
meant us to–by fetching broadcast signals from the air with
So what conclusion is one to jump to when one learns that Jon
Stewart graduated from
William and Mary
College, that ancient bastion of Virginia planter aristocracy?
And then there is his surname. Stewarts have a long history of not
being Jewish. Rod Stewart. Not a Jew. Martha Stewart. Not a Jew.
Jimmy Stewart. Not a Jew. Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots. Not a Jew.
Stuart Little. Not a Jew.
It turns out that, in the old showbiz tradition, Jon Stewart started
out life as
Jonathan Stewart Leibovitz and, to save himself some trouble,
lopped off a few syllables of his name, including his entire last
In the old days of the American melting pot, Jewish performers
regularly changed their names to make them sound more “American”–or
at least Irish. The Marx Brothers’ uncle Al Schoenberg was part of a
vaudeville team called Gallagher and Shean. (Ironically, the Marx
brothers all changed their first names, but not their last names.)
Similarly, Irwin Kniberg became Alan King. Joseph Gottlieb became
Joey Bishop. It was like a damned Jewish chessboard for a while.