Gulf Jews form umbrella body to make observance easier


(JTA) — Jews in six Gulf states are uniting under an umbrella association to facilitate Jewish observance.

The Association of Gulf Jewish Communities, which announced its establishment on Tuesday, will bring together communities in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, according to a statement from two board members, Houda Nonoo in Bahrain and Alex Peterfreund in the UAE.

Jewish worship exists to varying degrees in each of the countries. The profile of Jewish communities has become more public since the Abraham Accords, brokered last year by the Trump administration, normalized ties between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain. Those countries belong to the Gulf Cooperation Council, a regional alliance.

A factor in the association’s establishment was the launch of pre-Shabbat Zoom meetings among the communities during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Jewish populations in the countries vary between a handful and several hundred. The communities will remain independent of one another, and the association will function as a “people to people network,” the statement said.

“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,” Nonoo and Peterfreund said. The association plans to launch a beit din, or religious court, and a kosher supervising authority.

Rabbi Dr. Elie Abadie, based in the UAE, will be the association’s spiritual leader, and Ebrahim Dawood Nonoo of Bahrain will be its president.

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