The new Association of Gulf Jewish Communities is expected to be a place for Jews to come together from the Gulf countries. A statement announcing the organization notes that “as Jewish life continues to flourish and grow in the Gulf, the local Jewish communities of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates have come together to share resources by forming the Association of Gulf Jewish Communities (AGJC).”
Ambassador Houda Nonoo said that “during the pandemic, many of us started attending the Jewish Council of the Emirates’ pre-Shabbat Zooms where we met each other. That ultimately became the genesis for the creation of the Association of Gulf Jewish Communities because as we got to know one another on the call, we realized that there were certain resources we could share. Today, the Jewish communities of Bahrain and the Emirates are the largest in the region and we can assist the Jews in the other GCC countries in getting matzah for Pesach, yahrtzeit candles, siddurim and chumashim etc. Our hope is that this people-to-people network will create more opportunities for Jewish life in the region. We are all here to support one another.”
The AGJC is a network of the Jewish communities (people-to-people) from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries who are developing Jewish life in the region. “While each community is independent, they share a common goal and vision: for Jewish life in the GCC to flourish for the benefit of both residents and visitors,” the organizers says. “Under the spiritual leadership of Rabbi Dr. Elie Abadie, based in Dubai, and president Ebrahim Dawood Nonoo, based in Bahrain, the group is partnering on different communal programs and services so that their resources will enhance each other. The Association’s board consists of members from all six Gulf countries who together will forge the path forward for growing Jewish life in the Gulf.”
“For us in Bahrain, this marks an important milestone as we will now have access to a Rabbi who can come to Bahrain to officiate Jewish lifecycle events. I have known Rabbi Dr. Abadie for more than a decade as I had the honour of spending some high holidays with his synagogue during my time as Bahrain’s Ambassador to the United States and am very excited about this opportunity for our local community,” Ambassador Nonoo adds.
“The Gulf nations have been very supportive of the growth in Jewish life but as more people move in and come to visit, we must tend to their educational, cultural, spiritual, and religious needs by establishing programs and institutions to service these increased needs,” said Rabbi Abadie.
“Each one of our communities has so much to offer the other. While maintaining our independence, this new association allows us to pool our resources to the betterment of all Jews in the Gulf,” said Ebrahim Dawood Nonoo. “While our Jewish community has been part of the fabric of Bahrain society for over a hundred years, we appreciate the needs of some of the smaller or newer communities in the region and believe we can help them flourish and navigate growth in this part of the world.”
In Oman, a member of the community who asked to be identified only as M.K., described how important it is to be able to reach out to other Jews. An investor in aquaculture and hydroponics he has lived in the region since the 1970s and been in Oman for a decade.
“In a way, I guess it couldn’t have happened until this time when we have so many ways of communication available to us that didn’t exist previously,” he told The Jerusalem Post. “We all believe that we need the connectedness that binds us not only as Jewish people of many varied backgrounds from all over the world, but as people with a common faith. Over the years, a few people in the Middle East that I have associated with have known of my Jewish heritage, and many have not,” he also said.
M.K added that “to be able to make connections with our friends and families, as well as our religious affiliations, is important for everyone…Before, we lived in an era with Telex and long-distance calls, and now we can be on Zoom or Skype in an instant. As Jewish people, no matter where we are living, we are all still Jews, and we crave to have some connection to our friends and families. Living in the Middle East, a lot of people are afraid [to express their Judaism].”
Further details from the organizers: The Beth Din of Arabia (Jewish Court) is in the process of being established to assist with issues pertaining to personal status, inheritance, and voluntary business dispute resolutions in the region. The Arabian Kosher Certification Agency is in the process of being created to oversee kashrut (kosher certification) regionally using the same set of standards throughout all six Gulf countries, thereby making it easier for Jewish individuals to live in or travel around the Gulf.
The Association of Gulf Jewish Communities (AGJC) is the umbrella organization for the Jewish communities of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries that are building and enhancing Jewish life in the region. While each community is independent, they share a common goal and vision – for Jewish life to flourish in the Gulf for the benefit of both residents and visitors. The AGJC oversees programming and services such as the Beth Din of Arabia, the Arabian Kosher Certification Agency, lifecycle events and other community programs.
For more information, visit www.gulfjewish.org.