As Seinfeld Receives Honorary Degree at Duke, Students Walk Out in Protest


As Jerry Seinfeld, who has recently been vocal about his support for Israel, received his honorary degree on Sunday during Duke University’s commencement ceremony, dozens of students walked out and chanted, “Free, free Palestine,” while the comedian looked on and smiled tensely.

The students rose from their chairs, waved Palestinian flags and walked out of their graduation ceremony while Mr. Seinfeld stood next to a school official who ran through his career highlights on the stage in Duke’s stadium. Many in the crowd jeered the protesters.

In his commencement speech, Mr. Seinfeld was mostly cautious, opting for a tight comedic script interspersed with life advice instead of a full-on response to the protests against his presence.

Still, in one part of his speech, he defended various types of privilege and appeared to hint at the elephant in the room.

“I grew up a Jewish boy from New York,” he said to applause from the crowd. “That is a privilege if you want to be a comedian.”

Outside Duke’s stadium, graduates walked around campus, chanting: “Disclose, divest, we will not stop, we will not rest.”

Mr. Seinfeld, who has two children who have attended Duke, has been uncharacteristically vocal about his support for Jews in Israel while doing press in recent weeks for his latest film, “Unfrosted,” which chronicles the invention of Pop-Tarts.

Typically an apolitical comedian who prefers punchy takes on ordinary observations, Mr. Seinfeld is now engaging in the type of celebrity activism that few associate with him, and that has drawn criticism and praise. Since the attacks of Oct. 7 in Israel, he has signed a letter in support of the country and posted an earnest message on social media about his devotion to it.

His wife, Jessica Seinfeld, a cookbook author, recently promoted on Instagram a counterprotest at the University of California, Los Angeles, that she said she had helped bankroll, and where clashes with pro-Palestinian demonstrators turned violent.

In December, Mr. Seinfeld traveled to Tel Aviv to meet with the families of hostages, soberly recounting afterward the missile attack that occurred during the trip.

Still, his comments on the issues have been somewhat modest.

“I don’t preach about it,” he told GQ last month. “I have my personal feelings about it that I discuss privately. It’s not part of what I can do comedically, but my feelings are very strong.”

Not everyone at Duke was laughing at Mr. Seinfeld’s jokes on Sunday.

The Rev. Dr. Stefan Weathers Sr., an ordained minister in the American Baptist Church who was awarded a Ph.D. in divinity, had written a letter before the ceremony to the university asking that the comedian be replaced, citing Mr. Seinfeld’s ongoing and strong support for Israel.



Source link

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *