Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
Fast Forward

1,500 guests. Kosher food. The setting for this grand Jewish wedding? Abu Dhabi

The marriage of a prominent rabbi in the United Arab Emirates highlights the country’s growing Jewish presence

Two years after signing a normalization agreement with Israel, Emirati royals and prominent rabbis from across the globe will celebrate the wedding of the United Arab Emirates’ chief rabbi on Wednesday in what is being touted as the largest Jewish event in the Arabian Gulf in recent history.

About 1,500 guests are expected to participate in the wedding of Rabbi Levi Duchman and Lea Hadad, the daughter of Rabbi Menachem Hadad, the Chabad chief rabbi in Brussels, at the Hilton Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, the Emirati capital, according to the organizers.

With the average daily high in the UAE topping 102 degrees, the chuppah will be set up under a large air-conditioned tent overlooking the Etihad Arena, the Middle East’s largest indoor entertainment venue.

The event, coinciding with the second anniversary of the Abraham Accords, will highlight the increasing openness of Jewish life in the Persian Gulf. But the Jewish presence in the region has been growing in the UAE for decades, mainly in Dubai — its largest city — with more Jews doing business and moving there. The Jewish population of the UAE is estimated at 500.

Rabbi Motti Seligson, director of public relations for Chabad, who is a friend of Duchman and traveled to attend the wedding, said, “Seeing all these people coming out to celebrate this couple’s wedding, it points to the incredible impact that these two individuals have had on so many people’s lives.”

Until 2020, the Jewish community in the nation kept its traditions and services private. But recently, the UAE government has welcomed more public observances and celebrations.

Duchman, who was born in Brooklyn, moved to the UAE in 2014 and helped build much of the infrastructure for Jewish life there, including a Jewish day school, a mikvah and a government-licensed Kosher agency. He now heads the Jewish Community Center of UAE in Dubai, though he resides in Abu Dhabi, serving as the rabbi of the Beit Tefilah Synagogue. Before moving to the UAE, Duchman lived for two years in Casablanca, where his brother-in-law serves as the Chabad emissary.

Following the normalization deal, Duchman opened an upscale kosher restaurant in the Burj Khalifa tower in Dubai, the world’s tallest building. In the past year, at least four new kosher restaurants have opened and there are seven locations holding weekly services in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

“This event is a historic moment for Jewish life in the Arab world,” Seligson said.

Engage

  • SHARE YOUR FEEDBACK

  • UPCOMING EVENT

    SKY & SCULPTURE

    Hybrid: Online and at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan

    Oct 2, 2022

    6:30 pm ET · 

    A Sukkah, IMKHA, created by artist Tobi Kahn, for the Marlene Meyerson JCC of Manhattan is an installation consisting of 13 interrelated sculpted painted wooden panels, constituting a single work of art. Join for a panel discussion with Rabbi Joanna Samuels, Chief Executive Director of the Marlene Meyerson JCC of Manhattan, Talya Zax, Innovation Editor of the Forward, and Tobi Kahn, Artist. Moderated by Mattie Kahn.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.