Jews look for a home base in Dubai

As thousands of Jews make Dubai their home, the need for a permanent central synagogue becomes more acute. But the authorities have only offered space for religious sanctuaries on the outskirts of the city, far from where most Jews live. AP reports (via the Independent):

Rabbi Elie Abadie: ‘you can’t grow a community in a hotel’

Every Saturday, in secluded beach villas, hotel banquet halls and luxury apartment towers across Dubai, Jews arrive to worship at some of the world’s most hidden synagogues even as the United Arab Emirates encourages the dramatic growth and openness of its Jewish community.

Plans to build a permanent sanctuary for Dubai’s fast-expanding congregation have sputtered to a standstill, Jewish leaders say. The new community is running up against hurdles that religious groups long have grappled with in this federation, where the state’s official religion of Islam is closely monitored, non-Muslim practice is controlled and religious buildings are limited.

The fast-growing population of Jewish immigrants to the UAE — including an influx of Israelis after the countries normalized relations in 2020 and recently of Russians after the war on Ukraine — may feel freer than ever to express their identity in this autocratic Arab sheikhdom, which has sought to brand itself as an oasis of religious tolerance.

A Jewish nursery has sprung up. So has a mikvah, or ritual bath for women. New kosher restaurants do brisk business. Recent Passover seders drew thousands. But without a home base, some Jewish leaders fear a state of perpetual limbo.

“You cannot grow a community in a hotel,” said Elie Abadie, senior rabbi of the Jewish Council of the Emirates. “It gives the feeling of instability, of not belonging.”

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