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

The Jewish population living in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is approximately 1,000 according to the Jewish Council of the Emirates. The UAE is home to Jewish expatriates from around the world that practice all denominations of Judaism. Mostly concentrated in Dubai, the Jewish community is represented by the Jewish Council of the Emirates. It is the first new Jewish community to be established in the Arab world in over a century.

WJC Affiliate
Jewish Council of the Emirates (JCE)
Email: jceinfo11@gmail.com
Website: www.jceuae.ae

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

In the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, a Jewish grave headstone, dating to a period between 1507-1650, was found in 2019. There is no other evidence of Jews living in the historic UAE.  

While Jews have been living in the modern UAE for decades, a group began informally gathering in private homes since 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 as Chief Rabbi. Kriel was named Jewish Representative to the Community Development Authority, Government of Dubai in 2021

Demography

The Jewish population in the UAE numbers approximately 1000. 

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.  

Religious and Cultural Life

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

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

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. 

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, 2020 at the White House. 

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

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