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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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With humor, not a hammer

That's how a Chicagoan breaks down ethnic and religious walls

When Ray Hanania was a boy in Chicago, some of his schoolmates surrounded him and asked, “What are you?” He responded, “I’m American.” The other children said he wasn’t, so he went home and asked his dad.

His dad said, “Don’t tell them you’re Palestinian. Tell them you’re Syrian and Lebanese.”

Comedian Ray Hanania says, If you
Comedian Ray Hanania says, “If you make someone laugh, they can’t hate you.”
The next day, Hanania returned to school and told the kids, “I’m cereal, but I think my mom is a lesbian.”

The funny anecdote—one that Hanania swears is true—is just one of many stories that the Lutheran of Arab descent uses in his stand-up comedy (See his Web site).

It may not sound like a typical mission, but Hanania uses humor to help break down walls between people of different cultural and religious backgrounds. Earlier this year he took part in an Israeli-Palestinian Comedy Tour, for which he and three Jewish comics—including Aaron Freeman, who is African American—performed in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.


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