An $18 Wager Reveals ‘Jeopardy!’ Contestant’s Jewish Bona Fides


Astute viewers could find plenty of signs during the recent “Jeopardy!” Teachers Tournament that one leading contestant had some Jewish bona fides.

There was the fact that Meggie Kwait teaches at Beit Rabban Day School, a Jewish school on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. There was her covered hair, rare among game-show contestants but more common among observant Jewish women. And then there was her bet for the final question on a day when she was so far ahead she couldn’t lose.

“Yes, I wagered $18,” Kwait told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “That was when all the Jews realized I was Jewish.”

Kwait, a humanities teacher who trained as a musician and spent some time in rabbinical school before landing in the classroom, was one of 14 contestants during the trivia show’s two-week tournament just for educators; the contest was a gesture of honor toward them, a producer told the participants. She won two rounds to make it into the two-game final, where finished second to a music teacher from Michigan. The experience netted her $50,000 in prize money, bragging rights and, she says, new friends she anticipates keeping for life.

Kwait, who called herself a generalist, said was never a big “Jeopardy!” watcher or fan, though her my spouse is. The two watched a “Jeopardy!” collection on Netflix. “After a while he looked at me and said you’re really good, you should try out. So I registered, took the test online, was invited to audition in Boston, sat in the pool for 18 months, and then they asked me to come on the Teachers Tournament.”

“Jeopardy!” viewers gave Kwait “a lot of positive feedback.” But she admits that there was some political blowback for her “expressive” facial reaction to “Magic Mike Pompeo.” (Kwait correctly offered that answer to the clue “2012 male stripper cinematic saga that went on to be our 70th Secretary of State.”). “I was happy I got it right — but then I visualized it. I really think I would have had the same reaction about, like, John Kerry.”

For her employer, her “Jeopardy!” appearance was a big moment. Several teachers told Kwait that “it was incredible to hear me say Beit Rabban, the day school’s name, on the second day of the finals.”