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Fetterman gets standing ovation at Yeshiva graduation for removing Harvard robe hood

"I have been profoundly disappointed with Harvard's inability to stand up for the Jewish community," the pro-Israel senator said.

Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) removes the hood from his Harvard robe at Yeshiva University's commencement ceremony in New York on May 29, 2024. Credit: Yeshiva University.
Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) removes the hood from his Harvard robe at Yeshiva University's commencement ceremony in New York on May 29, 2024. Credit: Yeshiva University.

Addressing graduates at Yeshiva University’s commencement on Wednesday, Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) noted that he was last at a graduation “literally a quarter century ago,” when he graduated from Harvard University.

The pro-Israel senator’s reference to the Ivy League school, which has been accused of silence concerning Jew-hatred, drew some boos from the audience.

“Today, I have been profoundly disappointed with Harvard’s inability to stand up for the Jewish community,” Fetterman said. He then reached for the hood from his Harvard robe.

“For me personally, I do not fundamentally believe that it is right for me to wear this today,” said the junior senator from Western Pennsylvania, drawing widespread applause and a standing ovation, even from those on the stage with him, as he removed the hood.

Videos of Fetterman responding to anti-Israel activists in and around the U.S. Capitol abound on social media. But a different sort of imagery surfaced on Wednesday, as the senator received a presidential medallion—Yeshiva University’s top award—at the New York private university’s commencement ceremony.

In one video, which the writer and researcher Dovi Safier shared, Fetterman holds hands with YU President Rabbi Ari Berman and Rabbi Hershel Schachter as they and graduates dance to the song “Geshmak to Be a Yid” (“It’s delightful to be Jewish”).

Schachter, 82, is among the most senior leaders of Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary. In a photo that Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin, a Jewish educator, posted on social media, Schachter is shown blessing the senator and thanking him.

“During these challenging times, the leadership, service and moral clarity of this American patriot and hero of Israel have been a beacon of hope and strength for the country and the world,” Yeshiva University stated about Fetterman.

Fetterman YU
Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) removes the hood from his Harvard robe at Yeshiva University’s commencement ceremony in New York on May 29, 2024. Credit: Yeshiva University.

“Like Senator Fetterman, the Yeshiva University community has been deeply engaged in the post-Oct. 7 battle against antisemitism, and in the pursuit of justice for the victims and the hostages still in captivity,” YU stated. “This year, in particular, given Senator Fetterman’s career of activism on behalf of the United States and Israel, Yeshiva University highlights his stellar example of strength and leadership.”

Berman, the YU president, called Fetterman “one of the true heroes of our time for his unwavering and courageous commitment to moral clarity, which has fortified our community and been a clarion call for our country.”

Fetterman YU
Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) speaks at Yeshiva University’s commencement ceremony in New York on May 29, 2024. Credit: Yeshiva University.

‘Humbling to be invited to share this milestone’

“In the one commencement ceremony that has never been in doubt, I am proud to announce that I will be awarding YU’s highest honor for global leadership, our presidential medallion, to a true U.S. patriot and hero of Israel: Senator John Fetterman,” Berman posted on May 22.

“It is truly humbling to be invited to share in this milestone with the graduates of Yeshiva University,” Fetterman stated in a Yeshiva University news release before graduation.

“As we gather to celebrate the achievements of the graduating class, we must also acknowledge the profound significance of their journey within the context of the recent surge in antisemitism across the country,” he added. “I thank Yeshiva University for the opportunity to join these students on this momentous day.”

JNS sought comment from Fetterman’s office.

Fetterman YU
Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) receives Yeshiva University’s highest honor at its commencement ceremony in New York on May 29, 2024. Credit: Yeshiva University.

More than 5,000 people were expected to attend Yeshiva University’s main commencement ceremony, which took place at Louis Armstrong Stadium in Queens.

Fetterman YU
Sen. John Fetterman (left) holds the hand of Yeshiva University president Rabbi Ari Berman at YU’s commencement ceremony in New York on May 29, 2024. Credit: Yeshiva University.
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