Jewish Council of the Emirates

The Jewish Council of the Emirates (JCE) is the representative body of Part of the Jewish community in Dubai.[1]

Jewish Council of the Emirates
TypeJewish Community
United Arab Emirates
ServicesKosher Food, Jewish Education, Synagogue and other Jewish communal services
Yehuda Sarna
Ross Kriel

Although the Jewish community in the UAE is older, the JCE was formalized with its constitution in 2018. The JCE has more than 100 active members of diverse orientations, including orthodox, conservative and reform. In September 2020, the JCE announced that it would formally affiliate with the World Jewish Congress, an international organization that represents Jewish communities in 100 countries.[2]

Rabbi Yehuda Sarna and President Ross Kriel lead the council. In recent remarks[when?], Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba, Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to the United States, noted that Sarna and Kriel had been instrumental in taking care of and looking after the Jewish community.[3]

With the signing and ratification of the Abraham Accords – a historic agreement to normalize relations between the UAE and Israel, the JCE aims to act as a bridge between Emirati authorities and Jews living in the country, contribute to the diversity and pluralism of the UAE and advance interfaith harmony.[4] According to Sarna, the JCE intends to be an example community in the Gulf for “dialogue and interfaith cooperation.”[2]

The council also operates a synagogue in Dubai, where they have been organizing a formalized prayer group (a “minyan”) for nearly every Jewish sabbath and major festival since 2013.[5]

History edit

The JCE is the country's oldest congregation and recognized by local authorities.[6] The JCE community has been gathering since 2010, with a house known as The Villa serving as a community center since 2015. The JCE was formally established in 2019.[7]

In October 2020, the JCE announced the appointment of Elie Abadie, as the JCE's senior rabbi. A prominent rabbi and scholar of Sephardic Judaism, Abadie is relocating from New York City to serve as the JCE's senior rabbi.[8]

Background edit

The Jewish community in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is small. There are currently two active synagogues.[9] Talmud Torah (Jewish school) opened in 2020 and currently has 40 pupils.[10] As of 2019, according to Rabbi Marc Schneier, it is estimated that there are about 150 families to 3,000 Jews who live and worship freely in the UAE.[11] As of 2020 over 2,000 Jewish people live in the UAE.[9]

Viewpoints edit

According to Ross Kriel, the UAE has a culture of tolerance, particularly towards the Abrahamic religions. He believes the UAE Government's welcoming approach to the community is entirely values based, and is not a strategic move on their part to try and curry favor or achieve a political objective.[12]

The JCE hailed the Abraham Accords as a peace agreement that can have a transformative effect for Muslim-Jewish understanding and cooperation across the Middle East.[13] Rabbi Yehuda Sarna called the Accords a history-making milestone worthy of bearing the name of Abraham, "Today was not just the eve of the Jewish New Year, but the dawn of a new era for the entire Middle East. The true significance of these Accords is not to be found in some 'room where it happened', but in the doors it will open."[14]

Objectives edit

According to its constitution, the JCE's mission is focused on advancing the unity, welfare, standing and security of Jews living in the UAE by bridging the Muslim and Jewish communities and cultivating broader dialogue and cooperation.

Over the past several years, Emirati authorities have attempted to foster greater interfaith dialogue and understanding. This has included hosting high-level interfaith delegations and events as well as pledges to build a multi-faith “Abrahamic Family House” complex that includes a synagogue.[15][16] As a result, the JCE hopes to support the flourishing diversity and pluralism of the UAE.

Leadership edit

The JCE is led by Yehuda Sarna, Chief Rabbi; Ross Kriel, President; and the Governing Committee made up of ten community leaders.  In October 2020, the JCE announced that Dr. Elie Abadie will join the organization as the new Senior Rabbi in Residence, working “on-the-ground” to provides spiritual leadership.[17]

Activities edit

The JCE has been known as “the underground synagogue” conducting regular services for almost a decade while keeping its operations mostly hidden from public view.[18] The JCE has conducted Bar Mitzvahs, Bat Mitzvahs, and Brit Milahs. The only religious ceremony yet to take place is a wedding.[12]

In 2020 the JCE celebrated Rosh Hashanah with a virtual address from His Excellency Yousef Al Otaiba, the U.A.E.’s Ambassador to the United States. This reflected an unprecedented level of official state participation in a Jewish religious event.[19]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ Emirates, Jewish Council of the. "UAE's Jewish Council Celebrates Abraham Accords: "Will Forever Redefine Life in the Middle East"". Retrieved 2020-10-21.
  2. ^ a b Congress, World Jewish. "World Jewish Congress". Retrieved 2020-10-21.
  3. ^ "Abraham Accords Peace Agreement: Treaty of Peace, Diplomatic Relations and Full Normalization Between the United Arab Emirates and the State of Israel". Retrieved 2020-10-21 – via National Archives.
  4. ^ "UAE's Jewish Council: Abraham Accords will forever redefine life in the Middle East". Retrieved 2021-03-05.
  5. ^ "Secret synagogue in Dubai prays for Persian Gulf revival". AP NEWS. 2019-10-25. Retrieved 2020-10-21.
  6. ^ Ahren, Raphael. "Small but growing, UAE's Jewish community to get second full-time rabbi from NY". Retrieved 2020-10-21.
  7. ^ "The trailbazing Jews of the UAE: Paving the path toward peace". The Jerusalem Post | Retrieved 2020-10-21.
  8. ^ "UAE Jewish council announces appointment of senior rabbi". Retrieved 2020-10-21.
  9. ^ a b "A robust Jewish life exists in the U.A.E." ynetnews. 2020-06-11. Retrieved 2020-10-21.
  10. ^ "Baltimore Jewish Life | A New Talmud Torah Opens In Dubai". Retrieved 2020-10-21.
  11. ^ "The Jews of Dubai are on the map". Ynetnews. 2019-02-05. Retrieved 2020-10-21.
  12. ^ a b "The Jewish Community in the United Arab Emirates". YouTube.
  13. ^ "UAE and Bahrain officially ink ties with Israel – The Jewish World". Retrieved 2020-10-21.
  14. ^ "UAE's Jewish Council Celebrates Abraham Accords: "Will Forever Redefine Life in the Middle East"". MarketWatch. Retrieved 2020-10-21.
  15. ^ "Jews, Muslims, Christians meet at UAE interfaith event". ynetnews. 2020-02-03. Retrieved 2020-10-21.
  16. ^ "UAE's first official synagogue to open in multi-faith complex in 2022". Reuters (in Portuguese). 2019-09-22. Archived from the original on October 26, 2020. Retrieved 2020-10-21.
  17. ^ "UAE Jewish Community Opens New Chapter in Interfaith Dialogue with Addition of Arabic-Speaking Senior Rabbi". Retrieved 2020-10-21.
  18. ^ C, Jean; iotte. "As Israel and UAE make peace, Dubai Jewish community flourishes". The Forward. Retrieved 2020-10-21.
  19. ^ "Jewish Council of the Emirates Steps Out of the Shadows: "Shana Tova from the World's Youngest Jewish Community" | Daily Herald". Retrieved 2020-10-21.