Jews have a reputation for answering a question with a question. That might help explain Rabbi Joyce Newmark’s big news — she is now a “Jeopardy!” champion.
In the episode of the television game show that aired May 16, Newmark had no problem defeating two other contestants and finishing with $29,200.
The 63-year-old Conservative rabbi hosted a viewing party at Teaneck’s Congregation Beth Sholom, where she is a member.
The episode, which was recorded Feb. 2 in Culver City, aired 20 years to the day after Newmark’s graduation from the Jewish Theological Seminary.
A member of the first class of Wexner Graduate Fellows, she has served congregations in Lancaster, Pa., and Leonia, N.J., but currently writes and lectures.
As is her general custom, Newmark wore a yarmulke during the taping of the show. The head covering has been part of her garb since 1987.
“The interesting thing is that nobody said a thing about the kippah,” she said. “Since I was introduced as a rabbi, they may have just thought it was normal.”
Newmark had auditioned unsuccessfully for “Jeopardy!” in 2006 before her successful tryout in 2010.
While her profession was not a main focus of her appearance, it did not go unnoticed.
“As soon as I sat down in the makeup chair — the worst part of the entire experience — the makeup lady immediately began telling me why she had decided to take her son out of Jewish day school,” Newmark recalled.
Alex Trebek, the show’s longtime host, was interested in her profession, asking off-camera about how long female rabbis had been around and if there were any female Orthodox rabbis. (Newmark was not the first female rabbi to appear on “Jeopardy!” — that distinction belongs to a young Reform spiritual leader from several years ago.)
Once the cameras started rolling, Trebek introduced Newmark as a rabbi, but then went on to ask her about her experience at Woodstock, where she stayed at a motel rather than camp out.
Before the episode aired, Newmark wasn’t able to divulge much about what happened on the show, though she did insist that being a rabbi did not give her a leg up on any of the questions.
Well, maybe one — about which figure in the Bible succeeded Moses as the leader of the Israelites. Newmark certainly knew the correct response (“Who is Joshua?”), but wasn’t able to buzz in early enough.
Newmark returned for the May 17 show to defend her title, but came in second to Lisa Bloomberg, a medical student from Minneapolis. The rabbi received an additional $2,000 consolation prize for finishing in second place.