UAE Jewish community gears up for Purim and 24-hour megillah reading

Purim is coming to the Gulf this year and a number of unique and unprecedented events are planned for Jewish communities in the region. In the United Arab Emirates a twenty-four hour megillah reading is planned. Rabbi Levi Duchman of the UAE and Jewish Community Center (JCC), says. That there are twelve rabbis who will read Megillat Esther or scroll of Esther on the holiday this week. “We will be doing different events of less than ten people each keeping to UAE Covid guidelines,” he said. 

There are many events planned and different groups involved. In a statement by the Jewish Council of the Emirates (JCE) before Purim Ross Kriel, President of the Jewish Council of the Emirates noted that “many readings of the Megillat Esther will occur this year in Dubai and in the UAE – in person and through zoom. This is the tenth year that the Jewish Council of the Emirates has arranged Purim readings and celebrated the festival in Dubai. Notwithstanding the restrictions of Covid, we prepare for Purim with continued optimism and commitment to building Jewish communal life in the UAE.” 
“Purim has poignant relevance for Jews of the Diaspora. At times we hide our identities and at other times we reveal and assert that we are Jewish. Here in the UAE, our Jewish identity is directly relevant to the UAE’s social project which celebrates and supports religious pluralism. Our revealed presence is a wonderful sign that peaceful coexistence and harmony here in the UAE is a reality. In a deeper sense the work of the Jewish Council of the Emirates and the presence of our Jewish community in the UAE initiates a profoundly hopeful new Chapter for the Jewish people. Like Megillat Esther it demonstrates the surprising and ultimately positive and redemptive course of Jewish history,” said Kriel. 
Duchman says he is looking forward to the readings. “It’s my seventh Purim here in the UAE and it’s amazing to have this opportunity to lead and service our community. We have had other larger events in the past. We had a few hundred at an event in the past,” he noted. While there are more Jews in Dubai than Abu Dhabi today, there are Jewish communities around the Gulf. “The 24-hour megillah reading will consist of a reading every hour on the hour and people can come throughout the day and listen and participate in the mitzvot observing the Covid guidelines with less than 10 people present for a megillah reading,” says Duchman. The idea is for a family to be able to drop by throughout the day and have a one stop shop for all Purim Mitzvot, he notes. 
With local kosher certification and kosher food and catering people can enjoy cuisine as well. “Jews here are from all over the world. We have those from all backgrounds, we don’t label them, we are unified and come together and celebrate and learn from each other and share the tradition and values,” says Rabbi Duchman. He says he is the first Rabbi that moved to the UAE. “I lead the Jewish Community Council and Beit Tefilah of Abu Dhabi, and founded the UAE’s only kosher agency. Our community is not a Chabad we work closely with Chabad. I am a Chabad Hassid,” he says. 
According to a website of the JCC in the UAE there is a Purim in Dubai celebration with a breakfast and a megillah reading every hour as well. Proper adherence to guidelines will be maintained. People can RSVP at It will take place at the Dubai Marina Hotel. There is a Chabad Center at the Marina in Dubai that welcomes hundreds of tourists weekly, Duchman notes.  
“In terms of Jews here in the UAE, we have a few hundred who moved here since the Abraham Accords and more are coming. We also have the Mini Miracles nursery the first Jewish nursery that opened in January this year and a few properties under construction and we are building the community.”  What has happened in the last decade is incredible Duchman says. “There are Jews all around, we have people in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and the other Emirates as well and we now have multiple people on the ground in different areas, French speaking, Sephardic, Hebrew etc.” He hopes. To give Jews the opportunity to keep and connect with their religion and tradition.  

The community has received support from around the world. Chief Rabbi of Russia Berel Lazar has also been involved, he was in the UAE in January, according to reports at The Yeshiva World. He was supportive of efforts by the UAE to rescue. Yemenite Jews. He also wrote a letter to prince Muhammed Bin Zayed al-Nahyan about this issue, according to HaModia. Chabad praised his role in this rescue in August 2020.  


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