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Students walk out as Jerry Seinfeld, a recent Israel advocate, delivers Duke commencement address



Students walk out as Jerry Seinfeld, a recent Israel advocate, delivers Duke commencement address

(JTA) — As Duke College’s president launched the graduation speaker, two cries rang out: first, loud boos, after which, a joyous chant of “Jerry! Jerry!”

Dozens of graduates, some carrying Palestinian flags, walked out of the ceremony to protest Jerry Seinfeld, who has been outspoken in his help for Israel since Oct. 7, the start of the warfare that has ignited anti-Israel protests on school campuses throughout the US. With Seinfeld at his facet, Duke President Vincent Value paused his introduction for almost a minute for the commotion to quiet down.

It was an instance of the sorts of disruptions which have punctuated commencement ceremonies this spring amid the protest motion, which has precipitated some faculties to cancel or revamp their commencements. Value resumed his feedback rapidly, and Seinfeld delivered his handle as deliberate, to raucous applause. Nonetheless, the protest was detectable — and made extra pointed as a result of the scholars seemed to be protesting Seinfeld himself, not, as at different faculties, their college.

“No room for celebration when your college brings a Zionist, pro-genocide graduation speaker,” one wrote on social media, in accordance with a publish shared extensively and disparagingly by a pro-Israel consumer.

Seinfeld, who has by no means made politics a centerpiece of his celeb, has emerged as an sudden pro-Israel advocate within the wake of Oct. 7, when Hamas attacked Israel. Seinfeld visited Israel in December, visiting with households of hostages held in Gaza; the go to elicited a pointy backlash, together with heckling by pro-Palestinian protesters when he attended a speech in New York Metropolis by Bari Weiss, the editor of The Free Press and a longtime crusader towards antisemitism and anti-Zionism, in February.

When GQ journal requested him final month why he selected to make the journey to Israel, Seinfeld answered, “Effectively, I’m Jewish.” He additionally acknowledged the backlash, saying, “Each Jewish particular person I do know was shocked by how hostile the response was.”

However Seinfeld instructed GQ that he didn’t view himself as a crusader with regards to Israel, as some celebrities have turn into during the last seven months. “I don’t preach about it,” he mentioned. “I’ve my private emotions about it that I focus on privately. It’s not a part of what I can do comedically, however my emotions are very sturdy.”

Seinfeld didn’t point out Israel throughout his speech, and he talked about his Jewish identification solely when exhorting graduates to not be ashamed of the benefits they possess, together with a Duke diploma.

“Privilege is a phrase that has taken fairly a beating. I want to take a second to defend it,” he mentioned, including, “I say, Use your privilege. I grew up a Jewish boy from New York. That is a privilege — if you need to be a comic.”

However he did allude to a type of intolerance that some have pointed to as a driving drive behind issues with up to date universities.

“This is in all probability the largest level I would like to make to you right here as we speak concerning humor. … The barely uncomfortable feeling of awkward humor is OK. It’s not one thing you want to repair,” Seinfeld mentioned.

“I completely admire the ambitions of your technology to create a extra simply and inclusive society. I assume it is additionally fantastic that you care so a lot about not hurting different individuals’s emotions in the million and one methods we all do that each second of each day,” he added.It’s pretty to need to repair these issues however — all caps — however what I want to inform you as a comic: Do not lose your sense of humor. You can have no concept at this level in your life, how a lot you’re going to want it to get by way of.”

Seinfeld’s oldest little one, daughter Sascha, graduated from Duke final 12 months; his son Julien is an undergraduate on the college now.

Seinfeld acquired an honorary diploma from the college, which says it enrolls about 800 Jewish undergraduates out of a complete inhabitants of 6,600. (The college is residence to each a thriving Jewish life middle and a newly expanded Chabad in addition to one of many solely Jewish basketball coaches within the NCAA.)

Seinfeld’s spouse Jessica Seinfeld, a vocal supporter of Israel on social media, wrote on Instagram that the boos had focused the protesters, not her husband.

“Jerry’s speech was wonderful and the grads and their dad and mom gave him a standing ovation,” she posted. “You possibly can’t beat this college. We’re #eternally Duke.”

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