The Puffy Shirt: Jewish Cultural Weekend

The crowd in George Washington Hall erupted with laughter as one of the night’s emcees, Dr. Richard Keller, removed his brown leather jacket to reveal his very own Puffy Shirt, in reference to an episode of the popular 90’s sitcom, Seinfeld. On Friday January 18, 2008, Phillips Academy’s Jewish Student Union kicked off the annual Jewish Cultural Weekend with a Seinfeld Fest. “The Puffy Shirt,” the first episode shown that night, showed star Jerry Seinfeld accidentally agreeing to wear an embarrassing puffy white shirt on national television, becoming the butt of several pirate jokes for the rest of the night. According to Jonathan Adler ’08, the other emcee and co-head of JSU, the fun with the Puffy Shirt didn’t end even when the Seinfeld Fest ended. Keller brought a group of Seniors to Burger King after the show to celebrate—still wearing the Puffy Shirt. The seniors persuaded Keller to enter the restaurant and order separately, and while the cashier was able to keep a straight face, the Puffy Shirt attracted a few puzzled looks from onlookers. Seinfeld fans from across campus came out to enjoy a night of the classic comedy; with an impressive turnout, the Kemper Auditorium was filled for most of the night. Despite the stiff competition, the Seinfeld Fest held its own in against the Karaoke Night going on in the Underwood Room. Many members of the audience conveniently drifted back and forth between the two events. Even between episodes, the crowds could hardly bear to leave. Adler, who came up with the concept for the night, was onstage with PA’s very own “student veterinarian” (as Adler referred to him) Keller, and the two made a team whose humorous dynamic kept the crowd riveted. Adler said, “Seinfeld is a great show, and Dr. Keller is a great man. I was honored to share them both with the Phillips Academy community.” The night overall featured four popular episodes: “The Puffy Shirt,” “The Yada Yada Yada,” “The Limo,” and Adler’s favorite, “The Soup Nazi.” The fun was not limited to a marathon of Seinfeld episodes; bright blue JSU T-shirts were sold at the door and navy blue JSU T-shirts from 2007 were given away as prizes for answering trivia questions about Jewish culture written by Keller and Chris Meyer ’11. Prize winners like Mike Palermo ’08 were thrilled to gain their reward. Despite the disappointment of not winning a T-shirt, Geoffrey Kwok ’10 still had fun. Kwok says, “I think it was a great way to keep the students entertained on a Friday night…A lot of people like Seinfeld…It’s a good show.” Adler agrees, he decided that the Seinfeld Fest would mark the beginning of a new Phillips Academy tradition. “While it is enjoyed by people of all ethnicities and faiths, [Seinfeld] certainly features some Jewish undertones. We thought Seinfeld would present an entertaining glimpse at Jewish culture,” he said. JSU currently offers weekly Shabbat services and Tuesday dinners with Rabbi Kominsky and hopes to provide more entertaining yet educational programming. JSU is also planning a discussion on Jews in the American Civil Rights Movement. Seinfeld Fest 2008 was a success, and to reference Seinfeld itself, students gathered to watch Seinfeld, win some prizes, yadda yadda yadda, the end.