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Muslim Arif Choudhury, Jewish writer Aaron Freeman and Christian Palestinian Ray Hanania rocked the Casbash at a comedy show on Saturday night at an interfaith gathering that filled the gymnasium at Holy Cross Catholic Church in Deerfield. The show included the special comedy debut of Hanania’s son, Aaron
Illinois News Network
More than 250 Muslims, Christians and Jews filled the gymnasium at Holy Cross Catholic Church, 724 Elder Lane, Deerfield on Saturday (October 24, 2015) to find some respite from the tensions among Christians, Muslims and Jews in the Middle East and across America.
The show featured veteran African American Jewish comedian and professional voice-over Aaron Freeman who emcee’d the two hour standing room only show, and provided comedy that spanned religious, ethnic, racial and scientific humor.
Freeman introduced Arif Choudhury, a Bangladeshi comic originally from Northbrook, and Freeman’s longtime comedy collaborator Ray Hanania, a Christian Palestinian married to a Jewish wife. The trio rocked the show bringing the audience to belly laughs and much needed hilarity.
A special treat was the debut comedy performance of Hanania’s Jewish son, Aaron Hanania, who expanded on his father’s comedy by focusing on his unusual home life. “It is definitely unique to be the Jewish son of a Palestinian father and a Jewish mother,” said Aaron Hanania, who is a freshman in high school.
Rabbi Jodi Kornfield of Beth Chaverim Humanistic Jewish Community in Deerfield, praised the show.
“It was a wonderful show last night. It seemed to me that everyone was leaving with a smile on their face,” Kornfield said after the show. “B’shalom, in peace.”
Choudhury said he thought the audience reaction was phenomenal.
“The audience was about half Christian, half Jewish with a smattering of Arabs and Muslims and it was great to see everyone come together tonight,” Choudhury said.
Choudhury talked about his life growing up a Muslim in a predominantly Christian and Jewish community. His humor offered a unique perspective on Muslims and their experience in America.
Freeman and Hanania are co-founders of the Israeli-Palestinian Comedy Tour which performed 45 shows in Israel, Arab East Jerusalem, Dublin, Toronto and at college campuses throughout the United States. The group also performed for Jewish synagogues in Five Towns, Long Island, and also for Christian-Jewish-Muslim Interfaith groups in Illinois, Indiana and in the Midwest.
Hanania’s comedy focused on his life as a Palestinian married to a Jewish wife, lampooning their wedding and their son, Aaron, who Hanania calls “Abdullah.”
“It was a lot of fun. Comedy is a powerful way to strengthen the human spirit and rebuild hope that sometimes is the first casualty of terrible conflicts as we are seeing taking place in Israel and Palestine today,” Hanania said.
Hanania said he was extremely proud of the first-time performance of his son who wrote comedy based on his life as a 14 year old and his family life with his Palestinian father and Jewish mother.
“Comedy is a powerful way to get people from all walks of life to come together, to laugh and recognize the good in everyone else,” said Aaron Hanania following his performance.
“That’s why I really love to do standup comedy and humor. It’s fun.”
Audience members said they were empowered to believe that the world can be a better place after the show.
“My wife and I came wanting to be entertained and also to learn a little bit about Muslims, Christians and Arabs,” said Michael Barr, who lives in Highland Park and was in the audience. “Being Jewish, we love comedy. It was so moving to see all three religions on the stage.”
Barr’s comments were shared by many members of the audience.
Holy Cross Pastoral Associate Mary Ann Spina, who co-organized the evening’s comedy performance, said the audience laughed throughout the performances.
Hanania said he and Freeman were inspired by the audience response to book more shows in the Chicagoland area for Muslim, Christian and Jewish groups. He said groups interested in booking the four comedians can email him at email@example.com.
Chicago Tribune Oct. 21, 2015 by Bruce Ingram. Click to read the story.
The Patch Oct. 7, 2015 by Tim Moran. Click to read the story.
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Hanania loves to write about American Arabs in politics, and focuses on Arab life in America.
Currently, he writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com. He writes on American politics for the Des Plaines Valley News, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News newspaper and the Reporter Newspapers. He also writes for the online websites TheArabDailyNews.com and NewsAmericaNetwork.com (Illinois News Network at IllinoisNewsNetwork.com).
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Hanania began in journalism as an activist publishing Chicago’s first English-language American Arab Newspaper “The Middle Eastern Voice” from 1975 through 1977. In 1976, he was hired by the Chicago community newspaper The Southtown Economist (Daily Southtown) and in 1985 was hired by the Chicago Sun-Times and covered Chicago City Hall for both. In 1993, he launched the “The Villager” Newspapers which covered 12 Southwest Chicagoland suburban regions. In 2004, he published “The National Arab American Times” monthly newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East ethnic food stores in 48 American States.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
Hanania’s writings have been published in newspapers around the world. Formerly syndicated by Creators Syndicate, Hanania also has written news, features and Opinion Columns for Al Jazeera English, the Jerusalem Post, YNetNews.com, Arab News, Saudi Gazette, Newsday in New York, the Orlando Sentinel, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Star, the News of the World, the Daily Yomimuri in Tokyo, Chicago Magazine, the Arlington Heights Daily Herald, and Aramco Magazine. His political columns are published in the Southwest News-Herald and Des Plaines Valley News, Regional News and Palos Reporter newspapers in Chicagoland. Hanania is the President/CEO of Urban Strategies Group media and public affairs consulting which has clients in Illinois, Florida, Michigan and Washington D.C.
Hanania is Palestinian Christian from prominent Bethlehem and Jerusalem families. His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States.
His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania
Email him at: RGHanania@gmail.com