November 22, 2004

Students Celebrate Middle-East Culture

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The second annual Sepharadi-Persian Night drew more than 250 people to the first floor lounge in Robert Purcell Community Center Saturday night for an evening of comedy, dance and traditional Middle Eastern food. The overflowing crowd enjoyed performances by the Be’Ketsev Latin-Israeli Dance group, Persian Dance Troupe, Teszia Belly Dance Troupe and stand-up comedian Dan Ahdoot.

“The purpose of Sepharadi-Persian Night was to create an environment that would celebrate and educate people at Cornell about the joint cultures and history of Jewish and Persian societies,” said Lily Hakim ’07, president and founder of the Sepharadi and Mizrachi Association at Cornell.

In addition to SMAC, the event was also sponsored by the Iranian Students Organization. Sephardic Jewish communities lived in large numbers in Persia (modern day Iran) and throughout the Middle East for thousands of years until most immigrated to Israel following that country’s independence in 1948.

“We wanted to break the unfortunate stereotype that depicts Jews and Persians as having nothing but hate and fear for one another,” Hakim added. “This event brings the two groups together in an environment that is social, educational and enjoyable.”

Comedian Ahdoot, a writer for Comedy Central’s popular show Crank Yankers and a finalist on NBC’s Last Comic Standing delighted the audience with a routine that covered a range of topics, from his immigrant parents to stupid hip-hop lyrics.

Ahdoot dealt with the increased suspicion and prejudice that Arabic-looking people have faced in the last few years. “I am Iranian, or I guess I was Iranian until September 11th. Now I’m Puerto Rican,” joked the Iranian-Jewish comedian.

President Jeffrey Lehman ’77 attended the event and became involved with Ahdoot’s routine. After some raunchy material to start his performance, Ahdoot joked that he needed to watch his language because the president was present. He asked Lehman’s permission to continue, which Lehman granted by flashing a thumbs up sign. Ahdoot concluded his routine by borrowing Lehman’s cell phone to make prank phone calls to friends of several audience members.

Archived article by Elijah Reichlin-Melnick
Sun Staff Writer