Lubavitch Announces Emissary to the United Arab Emirates –

Posted By on October 28, 2020

Each new day seems to bring with it historic good news from the Middle East.Augusts surprise announcement of the United States-brokered Abraham AccordsPeace Agreement between the United Arab Emirates and Israel was followed amonth later by a similar agreement between the Kingdom of Bahrain and Israel.The two Arab states and Israel signed their respective agreements on the WhiteHouse lawn on Sept. 15, and it has been a flurry of firsts ever since: directcommercial flights, delegation exchanges, embassy applications.

These rapid developments have been a boon for the growing Jewish community in the entire Gulf region, which over the last few years has been quietly emerging from the shadows. This week marked yet another first when the Chabad-Lubavitch movement announced its appointment of Rabbi Levi Duchman, the rabbi of the United Arab Emirates, as the Chabad emissary to the UAE.

Throngs of children and adults at Duchman's UAE Purim event.

Thank Gd, Jewish life here in the UAE has been able to blossom like a desert rose, says Duchman. The coexistence and true respect people have for one another here is beautiful and unfortunately all too unique. Its also clear that none of this could have happened without the support and vision of the UAEs benevolent leader, his highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and is something the entire world can learn from.

The community of Jewish expats enjoys the UAE's unique spirit of tolerance and coexistence.

The UAE has in recent years become known for its commitment to tolerance andcoexistencemore than 200 nationalities live and work in the Gulf stateandJews have lived in the seven emirates on and off for decades. The Israel-UAEagreement formalizes this understanding, highlighting ... that the Arab and Jewish peoples are descendants of a common ancestor, Abraham, with this spirit inspiring the two countries to foster in the Middle East a reality in which Muslims, Jews, Christians and peoples of all faiths, denominations, beliefs and nationalities live in, and are committed to, a spirit of coexistence, mutual understanding and mutual respect ... .

Rabbi Moshe Kotlarsky (third from right), vice chairman of Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch, on a visit with the UAE Jewish community. Rabbi Duchman is on the far right and Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky, director of Chabad's Merkos 302, is on the far left.

Chabads involvement with the UAE stretches back as early as 2008, when New York Jewish businesspeople who had been traveling to the UAE approached Rabbi Yehuda Krinskychairman of Merkos LInyonei Chinuch, Chabads educationalarmrequesting the movement send a rabbi to help develop Jewish life in theUAE. In 2010 Chabad rabbinical students arrived in Dubai to lead the first everYom Kippur service in the Arab state, and rabbinical students have beenvisiting for every Jewish holiday ever since.

Duchman first came to the UAE in the winter of 2015, following up a few months later to lead the communal Passover seder in the capital city of Abu Dhabi. He moved to the country later that year.

At the time, there were a number of Jewish families here already, and nothing by way of Jewish education, explains Duchman. That November Duchman opened a Talmud Torah with four children; today it boasts 40 students.

Rabbi Duchman studies with a member of the UAE Jewish community at his synagogue.

Similar to its work on behalf of isolated Jewish communities around the world, Chabad has long supported the Jews of the UAE in a variety of capacities. Chabad.orgsAsk the Rabbi team, for example, has maintained a close dialogue with the local community for years and helped visitors and new residents connect. UAE children too old for Duchmans Talmud Torah receive a Jewish education in Chabads Nigri International Jewish Online School.

Dubai, a city of 3.3 million people and the UAEs largest, is home to two synagogues. One is led by Ross Kriel and New York-based Rabbi Yehuda Sarna, a chaplain at New York University, the othersome 20 kilometers up the coastis led by Solly Wolf, who has lived in the UAE for the last 20 years, and Rabbi Duchman, who has been the only resident rabbi for six years and has been granted permanent residency. The latter even has a minyan three times daily. Duchman, who speaks five languages including French and multiple dialects of Arabic, also helped found the Jewish community in Abu Dhabi, and recently opened the capitals only synagogue and Jewish community center, which held its inaugural services this past Rosh Hashanah.

Duchman's Talmud Torah provides Jewish learning to some 40 students in the country.

Ivebeen closely following the growth and success of the UAE Jewish community overthe last decade and have been able to see it with my own eyes, says RabbiMoshe Kotlarsky, vice chairman of Merkos LInyonei Chinuch, who over the pastyears has visited the UAE to meet with its Jewish leadership. Kotlarsky, amongwhose responsibilities is overseeing Chabads rabbinical visitation program,has for decades maintained contact with small outlying Jewish communitiesaround the world, the UAE among them. I congratulate the community and itsleaders on their monumental past success and bless them to go from strength tostrength as they celebrate these new milestones.

Chabad of the UAE builds on the 130-year-old relationship between the Russian Chassidic movement and the Jews living in Muslim lands. Already in 1892, Rabbi Shlomo Yehuda Leib Eliezerov, a follower of the Fifth Rebbe, Rabbi Sholom DovBer of Lubavitch, was dispatched to Bukhara, Central Asia, where he worked to strengthen its Jewish infrastructure and ultimately served as rabbi of Samarkand for nearly a decade. The brilliant halachic scholar and Chassid Rabbi Avraham Chaim Naeh arrived in Samarkand in 1911 where, after exchanging his Eastern European clothing for the traditional local garb, he likewise focused on bolstering all aspects of Jewish life.

Duchman visits with Jewish U.S. servicemen in the Gulf region.

Rabbi Sholom DovBers son, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, of righteous memory, expanded this work, both in Central Asia and the Caucuses, and after World War II laid the groundwork for Chabads first outpost in North Africa. Indeed, following the ascension of the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, as leader of Chabad in 1950, the first place he sent emissaries to was Morocco, building a network of Chabad Jewish schools from Meknes to Casablanca, later also adding centers in Tunisia. Chabad of Morocco remains a vibrant center for Jewishlife and is in fact directed by Duchmans brother-in-law and sister, Rabbi Leviand Chana Banon, and Duchman received his rabbinic apprenticeship in Casablanca.

Theres a unique bond between Rabbi Duchman and the Jews of the UAE, says Kotlarsky. Since his initial visit six years ago, weve been hearing from residents requesting that Rabbi Duchman remain there.

Jewish life in the UAE has bloomed since Duchman first arrived, and just last year the rabbi presided over one of the UAEs first bar mitzvahs. Things have been moving at a breathtaking pace since.

The UAE-based Duchman runs services and provides Torah classes, including bar mitzvah lessons. Last year he presided over one of the country's first bar mitzvahs.

Aside from running Shabbat and holiday services and teaching a host of regular Torah classes, Duchmanwho is vice president of ARIS, or the Alliance of Rabbis in Islamic States, which includes rabbis serving communities in countries such as Turkey, Kyrgyzstan and Uganda, among other stateshas been instrumental in making kosher food available in the emirates. What began with photographing kosher products in supermarkets and tagging them on Instagram for public awareness morphed into the countrys first kosher shechita, which he arranged in 2017.

Earlier this year he opened the Emirates Agency for Kosher Certification (EAKC), which works hand in hand with a number of worldwide kosher supervision organizations and today EAKC supervises one glatt-kosher meat restaurant, Armani/Kaf. (Pictures of the public sukkah erected by Duchman nearby at the base of the iconic Burj Khalifa recently went viral). Another food establishment, Ellis Kosher Kitchen catering service in Dubai, is under the Orthodox Unions (OU) supervision, and the OU is also active in supporting Jewish life in the UAE.

There are three synagogues in the UAE: two in Dubai, and a one in Abu Dhabi. Here Rabbi Duchman assists Ross Kriel with affixing the mezuzah to the Villa Synagogue.

Now, after the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism advised hotels in the emirate to provide a kosher-food option, the department has partnered with EAKC to help guide hospitality establishments in the kosher process and provide certification. The five-star Armed Forces Officers Club and Hotel in Abu Dhabi, which regularly provides catered meals to thousands, now maintains an EAKC kosher-certified kitchen, as does the Emirates Palace Hotel.

We want to emphasize that our eagerness to serve kosher cuisine to guests who prefer it springs from our respect for cultural diversity, explained Shaikha Al Kaabi, CEO of the Armed Forces Officers Club and Hotel, after the kosher kitchens ribbon-cutting ceremony. The UAE is a land of tolerance andpluralism and we want our cuisine to reflect the national ethos .

The UAE's Talmud Torah has 40 students studying about their heritage.

Duchman, who was a member of the UAEs delegation to the Peace and Prosperity conference in Bahrain last year, has also spent time assisting Jewish communities throughout the Gulf region. Hes visited the small Jewish community in Kuwait, as well as Jewish members of the U.S. armed forces stationed on two bases there; conducted a funeral in Bahrain; and flown to Oman to help the tiny Jewish presence in Muscat. With his appointment as the Chabad emissary to the UAE, Duchman will be focusing his efforts on the emirates, yet with a continued eye towards helping every Jew in the region.

The rapid growth of authentic Jewish life and learning in the UAE is truly a herald of the prophet Isaiahs words of the era when nation shall not lift the sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore, shares Duchman. Were living in a very special time.

Rabbi Duchman (right) at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new kosher kitchen at the Armed Forces Officers Club and Hotel in Abu Dhabi. Duchman's kosher supervision service, Emirates Agency for Kosher Certification (EAKC), recently partnered with the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism and today certifies a kosher kitchen in both the Armed Forces Officers Club and the Emirates Palace hotel.

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Lubavitch Announces Emissary to the United Arab Emirates -

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