Community in United Arab Emirates - World Jewish Congress
United Arab Emirates

The Jewish Council of the Emirates (JCE) estimates that about 1,000 Jews are currently living in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and are mostly concentrated in Dubai. The UAE is home to Jewish expatriates from around the world who observe all denominations of Judaism. The JCE is the first new Jewish community to be established in the Arab world in over a century.

The United Arab Emirates affiliate of the World Jewish Congress is the Jewish Council of the Emirates (JCE).

WJC Affiliate
Jewish Council of the Emirates (JCE)

Jewish Representative to the Community Development Authority, Government of Dubai: Ross Kriel

Jewish tribes lived throughout the Arabian Peninsula in the period between the destruction of the Second Temple and the rise of Islam. However, virtually no archeological traces exist attesting to the existence of a pre-Islamic Jewish community in the United Arab Emirates. The earliest written reference to Jews in the region relates to Benjamin of Tudela’s twelfth-century report of a Jewish community in a place called “Kis”, today located in Ras al-Khaimah, one of the seven emirates of the UAE. The reference is further supported by a tombstone with Hebrew inscriptions discovered close to Ras al-Khaimah in the 1970s by local tribesmen. In the late medieval and early modern periods, Jewish traders who dealt with precious gems regularly traveled to the region to acquire pearls. 

Although Dubai has no historic Jewish community, since the formation of the UAE in 1971, a discrete expat community developed as Dubai itself emerged as a hub for international business.

While Jews have lived in the modern UAE for decades, a group began to informally gather in private homes in 2008, creating the first sense of community. A regular minyan began in 2014 and activities have grown since. In 2019, the community held a general meeting where a constitution was adopted and the first elections were held; Ross Kriel was elected the community’s first president and Rabbi Yehuda Sarna was declared as Chief Rabbi. Kriel was named Jewish Representative to the Community Development Authority, Government of Dubai in 2021.


It is estimated that somewhere between 500 and 3000 Jews live in the UAE, the majority of whom are expats. 

Jewish life is centered in Dubai, the UAE’s most populous city and the capital of the Emirate of Dubai, though there is also a significant presence in Abu Dhabi. 

Community Life

The Jewish community in the UAE is represented by the Jewish Council of the Emirates (JCE). 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. The JCE works to contribute to the diversity and pluralism embedded in the UAE’s heritage, as seen in “Celebrating Tolerance: Religious Diversity in the United Arab Emirates” published in 2019, the year designated the Year of Tolerance in the UAE. 

The JCE represents the Jewish community at major events including Pope Francis’ visit to Abu Dhabi and the signing of the Abraham Accords at the White House.  

Community life was centered in a private villa in Dubai until 2020. Today, Jewish communal institutions in Dubai are expanding at a fast pace; a religious school, kindergartens, synagogues, mikvahs (ritual baths), and multiple kosher restaurants have all been built in the past four years.

Religious and Cultural Life

The JCE has operated an “underground synagogue” quietly from a residential villa since its inception. It has now expanded into a community center. Services are conducted for Shabbat and all major festivals and celebrate life cycle events, including brit milahs, b’nai mitzvahs, and weddings. 

In 2019, the government of the UAE and the Higher Committee for Human Fraternity announced plans for the Abrahamic Family House, a complex including a synagogue, mosque, and church in Abu Dhabi.

With recognition by the Ministry of Tolerance and Coexistence, Judaism has become a publicly accepted religion in Dubai; observant Jewish men in Dubai can even wear kippot in the street. In 2020, Hanukkah concerts and a candle-lighting ceremony were held at the foot of the Burj Khalifa, the most prominent building in the city. 

Kosher Food

Kosher food is available at markets, hotels, and restaurants, as well as catered meals through Elli’s Kosher Kitchen.   

Jewish Education
Relations with Israel

Israeli-Emirati relations were cool from the UAE’s independence but began to warm in 2010. 

In January 2010, Israel's Minister of National Infrastructure attended a renewable energy conference in Abu Dhabi. He was the first Israeli minister to visit the UAE. 

In February 2019, the UAE established diplomatic relations with the State of Israel. On August 13, 2020, Israel and the UAE signed an agreement to normalize relations, brokered by the United States. The treaty, dubbed the Abraham Accords, was signed on September 15 at the White House. The Abraham Accords marked a major turning point for the Jewish population of the UAE, but they are currently not recognized by all of the Emirates and continue to garner criticism among certain groups within Emirati society. These accords, however, have been overwhelmingly positive for the Jewish community in the UAE.

Israel and the UAE announced a mutual visa exemption agreement in October 2020 and direct commercial flights between the two countries began in November.  

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