Ron Rosenbaum in Slate suggests, in an open letter to the Daily Show host, that Jon Stewart revert back to using his real name, Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz:
So please know I’m writing as an admirer, someone who thinks you have the courage as well as comedic smarts to take the simple but radical step I’m going to suggest.
I want you to change your name. Back to Leibowitz. Stewart is just so 20th-century, a relic of that dark age when Jews in show biz changed their names because they feared “real Americans” wouldn’t accept the originals.
It’s not as if you’re trying to hide your Jewishness in your TV persona…. It’s almost as if the Leibowitz in you is trying desperately to escape from behind the mask of the Stewart. So why not set it free? Change the name back?
Rosenbaum mentions that recent poll that named Stewart America’s most trusted newsman, which may have prompted this request, but since he brings in Michael Jackson and his strange relationship with race and identity, it’s clear Rosenbaum’s been thinking about this for at least a little while. (And I bet the fact of America’s first black President and the relative nonissueness — crazy nutty “birther” nutters aside — with which we elected a man named Barack Hussein Obama to the White House, whatever his skin color, had something to do with it, too.)
I may have a skewed perspective on this, as a New Yorker: all New Yorkers are basically culturally Jewish, anyway, so it seems like no big deal to me whether a kid from Joisey is called Stewart or Leibowitz. But maybe there are still lots of folks in the United States in the 21st century who would look askance at “Jon Leibowitz” but not “Jon Stewart.” It does seem unlikely that any of them are watching The Daily Show, on which Stewart does, as Rosenbaum points out, make a regular schtick of his Jewishness.
On the other hand, maybe that means it isn’t worth talking about anyway. If everyone already knows that Jon Stewart is Jewish, does it matter what we call him? Or what he calls himself?
Should Jon Stewart change his name back to Jon Leibowitz?
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