Dear Jon Stewart


Ron Rosenbaum — the journalist who wants you to know he recognized Jon Stewart’s genius long before the rest of us, thank you very much — has an open letter to the Daily Show host encouraging him to change his name. Again. Back to Leibowitz.

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?

At this point, it wouldn’t hurt you. It would only help you: Most of your fans would see it as a touching gesture. And you’d no doubt get lots of comedic mileage out of it. I’m sure that you could milk the buildup and get a good-natured laugh out of the audience every time you used Leibowitz or pretended to get confused.

And, on a more serious note, it would represent the end of a shabby, antiquated era, pronouncing that aspect of anti-Semitism now (hopefully) dead and gone. It might even make it easier for young comedians, actors, and rock stars to resist the temptation to try to "pass." (Although, frankly, I hope that Gene Simmons of Kiss keeps his origins hidden from those who don’t know about them.) It could be an important cultural moment.

Don’t you think it’s about time for Jews to reject the rejection of their ancestry and the WASP-ification of their names? Not just you, but all Jews in show business, indeed all Jews in business business. The practice might once have served a purpose, back in the ’20s and ’30s, when it was insisted upon by powerful but fearful Hollywood movie moguls who wanted Jewish talent but were afraid of Jewish names seeming un-American to the mass of the populace who, it’s probably true at that time, suffered from a low-grade case of anti-Semitism. Or nativist hostility to foreign names in general. So Issur Danielovitch Demsky became Kirk Douglas. (You could have gone with Kirk Leibowitz.)

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