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It’s expensive to be Jewish

The Orthodox Church never makes me 'pay to pray'

I knew it was going to happen someday. Just as we approached our 15th year anniversary, Alison mentioned that I hadn’t been to synagogue in a while.

Did I have to go? I mean, do you how much tension I cause when I walk into a room filled with Jews looking like myself, all jihadee-like?

OK. Her elbow hurts when I crack a joke in response to a serious question.

Really, do you want me to carry around the Torah during Purim?

The last Purim festival I went to was in 1967 at the JCC in Pill Hill in Chicago. And they gave me tickets to jump on the gas-station wire that rang every time a car drove over it, re-rigged to ring when kids jumped on it, and a sign that read “Stamp out Nasser.”

I liked Nasser. I mean, in retrospect, 45 years later, he wasn’t so bad compared to the nasties that have redefined demonization and taken it to new levels.

So I have to go to temple with her and Aaron soon, otherwise they may wise up to me and figure out that I’m a “sleeper,” a Palestinian husband who loves being married to my Jewish wife but really doesn’t go to any religious instituion to pray to anyone.

I’m a “sleeper” because I prefer to sleep in — what did you think I meant?

So I figure I’ll have to go when the High Holy Days come by and sit there and pretend to say the word “Israel” during the prayers.


Ah there’s that elbow again, right in the nationalistic Palestinian gut. She loves doing that.

But we have to buy tickets to the services. Expensive! Very expensive. Maybe not as much as they might cost in New York City or Miami, but Chicago’s ritzy suburbs have their value, too.

And with tickets come the annual membership. Expensive, again. Yikes. It’s expensive to be a Jew.

The Orthodox Church never makes me “pay to pray.” (No, I didn’t say “pay to play,” the Chicago-ese political term for the way “tings r on da sout side!” Pay to pray.)

Well, actually, they do make us pay to pray at the Orthodox Church. You’d better drop some cash into the basket, which comes around a few times during each service. And, if you drop in cash without the envelope, you don’t get the credit.

At least with being a Jew, I can deduct the membership in the synagogue, which I love, honey — I promise.

Sure, it comes out of my fund. When the JUF asks for donations, Alison doesn’t hesitate. I make her do it out of her fund, of course. We don’t want to co-mingle the politics when it comes to the American dollar.

Alison is a Republican and I am a Democrat. That’s tougher than being Palestinian and Israeli.

My wife is always saying that the Republican Party is the Party of God. And I always point out that where I come from, that’s called Hezbollah.

Ouch. watch that elbow, honey.

It is our 15th Anniversay, after all. And I did buy you a nice Movado.

And…I’ll go with you to synagogue.

But don’t make me read that part about the Egyptians again during the Seder services. That’s carrying a grudge a little too long.

About the Author
Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian American columnist and former Chicago political City Hall reporter. His father is from Jerusalem and mother from Bethlehem. A Christian, Hanania's wife, Alison, is Jewish. He has two children, Carolyn Haifa, from a previous marriage, and Aaron, who is Russian Jewish. Hanania writes regularly for Creators Syndicate on Middle East issues and for the Saudi Gazette every Sunday. He is the managing editor of The Arab Daily News online (www.TheArabDailyNews.com). During more than 35 years in journalism, he has also hosted several live radio talk shows. He performed standup comedy with the Israeli-Palestinian Comedy Tour, lampooning his Arab-Jewish marriage, and is the author of several books including "Arabs of Chicagoland" (2005), a historical look at Arab settlement in Chicago, and “I’m Glad I Look Like a Terrorist: Growing up Arab in America” (1996, 2006), which humorously explores his experience growing up Arab in America.