Rabbis of communities in the Islamic world now have a platform in which to meet and exchange information. Despite a tendency to exaggerate the numbers of Jews still left in the Muslim world and downplay the challenges they face, this is a useful initiative. Suzanne Güsten profiles ARIS – The Alliance of Rabbis in Islamic States – in Al-Monitor:
A rabbi in Iran asks for advice about a religious divorce in his community; a rabbi in Egypt inquires about the well-being of the Jewish community in Tunis after a disturbance outside their synagogue; three rabbis from Kazakhstan, Turkey and Egypt send a selfie from their meeting at a conference on kosher certification. “The messages can be quite random,” Rabbi Mendy Chitrik of Istanbul remarked as he scrolled through the chat group of the Alliance of Rabbis in Islamic States (ARIS) recently. “But the rabbis finally have a platform where they can consult each other.”
Around 100,000 Jews live in Muslim countries around the world*, according to the organization, many of them in isolated pockets and with little access to resources. Until a couple of years ago, some communities barely knew of each other. It was only at the inaugural summit of ARIS last year, for example, that the Chief Rabbi of Iran was introduced to the rabbi of a Jewish community in neighboring Azerbaijan.
Today, the ARIS brings together more than 50 rabbis in the Islamic world, connecting Jewish communities in close to 20 predominantly Muslim countries and regions across Africa, Asia and Europe in an effort to enable them to sustain their faith and thrive in their homelands. Despite having started out on the brink of the pandemic, the initiative has quickly gained traction among Jewish communities in Islamic countries and won support from governments.
*Evidence points to no more than 30,000