Amy Schumer Discovers Shared Hebrew Name With Jewish Ancestor; Maya Rudolph Learns About Lithuanian Jewish Roots
Actress-comedians Amy Schumer and Maya Rudolph made some discoveries about their Jewish ancestors on Tuesday night’s episode of the PBS series “Finding Your Roots.”
Schumer had tears in her eyes when the show’s host, Harvard professor and historian Henry Louis Gates, Jr. showed her an immigration document with the names of her Jewish paternal great-grandmother and the latter’s parents, who left what is now Ukraine for the United States in 1912. She talked about getting “really emotional” over the revelation and said, “I’m really grateful to [now] know their names. I don’t think you need to be royalty to wanna know where you came from. These names feel really important to me.”
Schumer — whose mother converted to Judaism before marrying her father — also saw for the first time a photo of her great-grandmother and discovered that they have the same Hebrew name Chaya, though her ancestor spelled it as “Chaje.”
After the show’s host presented Schumer with a picture of her Jewish great-great grandfather’s tombstone at the United Hebrew Cemetery in Staten Island, she talked about wanting to visit the burial site of her ancestor, who died within a year of coming to the US.
“I’m excited to find out about that town and think about them more,” Schumer first said about the town where her ancestors came from. “And I know I’ll go see this grave. I think this will change me.”
Rudolph, who said she went to school during her childhood with “mostly Jewish and white kids,” was eager to learn about her Jewish father’s side of the family and was surprised to discover that her Jewish roots stemmed from Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. Lithuanian state archives revealed that Rudolph’s ancestors had lived there since 1799. She also learned that her great-grandfather changing his Jewish-sounding last name to “Rudolph” upon moving to the United States and was shocked to find out that three years later he became a founding member of a synagogue in Pittsburgh. The conservative temple is now one of the largest synagogues in Pittsburgh, according to Gates.
The revelation shook Rudolph because she was not raised with any religion and her father was not brought up Jewish because her paternal grandfather was against any form of organized religion. She said she found her deep religious roots “hilarious because look at my grandfather, Sid Rudolph, he obviously was trying to come up with his own thing and stand apart from his family because they were so religious. I mean that’s shocking to me. Like me, I’m connected to that? For somebody who feels kind of rootless.”
Watch Amy Schumer and Maya Rudolph on “Finding Your Roots” below: