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Duke protesters walk out on Seinfeld at graduation

A small number of anti-Israel protesters marched out of the commencement when Jerry Seinfeld was announced. Many jeered the protesters.

American comedian Jerry Seinfeld performs in Tel Aviv on Dec. 19, 2015. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.
American comedian Jerry Seinfeld performs in Tel Aviv on Dec. 19, 2015. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.

As Jewish comedian Jerry Seinfeld received an honorary degree during Duke University’s commencement celebration in Durham, N.C. on Sunday, anti-Israel protesters marched out, chanting “Free, free Palestine.”

Many students booed the protesters.

Outside the stadium where the ceremony took place, graduates walked around campus, chanting “Disclose. Divest. We will not stop. We will not rest,” The New York Times reported.

“We understand the depth of feeling in our community, and as we have all year, we respect the right of everyone at Duke to express their views peacefully, without preventing graduates and their families from celebrating their achievement,” Frank Tramble, Duke’s vice president for marketing, communications and public affairs, told JNS.

Two of Seinfeld’s children attended Duke.

In his commencement speech, the comedian did not address the protest directly, though at one point he made an apparent passing reference to the idea of privilege, per the Times.

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

Normally apolitical, Seinfeld has been vocal in his support for Israel since Oct. 7.

In December, Seinfeld paid a solidarity visit to the Jewish state with his family and toured Kibbutz Be’eri, one of the Gaza border communities whose residents Hamas murdered on Oct. 7.

Seinfeld also met with families of Israeli hostages held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Jessica Seinfeld, an author and the comedian’s wife, promoted a counterprotest at the University of California, Los Angeles, which she helped bankroll, on Instagram, the Times reported.

In an April 22 GQ interview, Seinfeld was asked about his decision to visit Israel.

“Well, I’m Jewish. And you grow up learning about antisemitism, but it’s kind of in a book,” he said. “It never crossed my mind that people would look at me as anything other than, ‘I like this comedian. I don’t like this comedian.'”

“I think most Jews of my generation never thought about antisemitism,” he said. “It was from history books, and then it was something different.”

“Every Jewish person I know was surprised by how hostile the reaction was,” he said, of surging Jew-hatred globally since Oct. 7.

Seinfeld was asked if he regretted his decision to visit Israel.

“No, not at all,” he said. “I don’t preach about it. 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.”

Seinfeld has been promoting his latest movie, Unfrosted, a zany take on the invention of the breakfast food Pop-Tarts.

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