Jerry Stiller: I'm still not sure if my Seinfeld character was Jewish

Actor says Frank Costanza had an Italian name but Jewish eating habits.

December 20, 2018 14:00
1 minute read.
Jerry Stiller, a cast member in "The Heartbreak Kid", arrives with his wife Anne Meara at the premie

Jerry Stiller, a cast member in "The Heartbreak Kid", arrives with his wife Anne Meara at the premiere of the film in Los Angeles, September 27, 2007. (photo credit: REUTERS/CHRIS PIZZELLO)


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Were they or weren’t they?

Twenty years after the iconic sitcom Seinfeld went off the air, Jerry Stiller said he still isn’t entirely sure if the Constanza family was Jewish or Italian. Stiller played the family patriarch Frank Costanza, the father of George Costanza, who was portrayed by Jason Alexander.

“It was never really clear if the Costanzas were Jewish or Italian or what they were,” Stiller said in a video played at an event in New York earlier this week, according to The New York Post’s Page Six. “Jason, Estelle [Harris, who played Estelle Costanza] and I were given the name Costanza, which sounds Italian, but there were episodes where I cooked Jewish food and ate knishes and kasha varnishkes in bed.”

Stiller added, “When people asked me about this, I would simply say it was because we were a Jewish family in the witness protection program.”

The video message from Stiller was played at a gala event in New York for Beit Hatfutsot, the Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv. Earlier this year, the museum opened an exhibit titled “Let There Be Laughter: Jewish Humor Around the World.” A replica of Jerry Seinfeld’s apartment is included in the exhibit.

“What about the Costanzas’ living room?” joked Stiller in the video clip. “What are we, chopped liver? Oy, serenity now!”

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