On Monday, the Jewish communities of six Gulf states announced they would form the region's first Association of Gulf Jewish Communities or AGJC, uniting the adherents of Judaism in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and Bahrain.
The AGJC, which will be led by Rabbi Elie Abadie and Ebrahim Daoud Nonoo will be uniting rather small and quite old Jewish communities.
It is not clear how many Jews reside in each of the Gulf states. The UAE probably boasts the largest Jewish community, ranging between 500 and 1,500 people. Most are foreigners, who moved to the country for studies, business or pleasure.
Bahrain is believed to be home to 50 Jews, whereas the other Gulf states are said to have even fewer.
Jewish Infrastructure Is Needed
But for Abadie, an American rabbi of Lebanese origin who relocated to the UAE last November, the fact that the Gulf has a tiny Jewish community is not an obstacle. He vows that the association he will be heading will cater to the needs of locals, tourists and business people alike.
"Our goal is very practical. We will provide Jews living or visiting the region with all the religious services that they might need", says the rabbi, who will be touring the Gulf states on a permanent basis to meet to the demands of the Jewish communities.
The group is already working on setting up the first Jewish Court in the region, an institution that will assist with issues pertaining to personal status, inheritance and business dispute resolutions.
The Jewish presence in the area has been boosted in the past several months following the signing of the historic normalisation agreements between Israel, the UAE and Bahrain in September 2020, and that has also been a factor that contributed to the decision to set up "the necessary infrastructure" that would cater to the needs of practising Jews.
No Politics Involved
But as much as the association will be involved in providing religious and social services, the AGJC will make sure to stay away from political issues like the defamation of the Jewish people or the combat of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
"After all, we are a civil association, not a political one. As a Jewish organisation, we might end up tackling the issue of anti-Semitism, for example, but this is not our goal. Our goal is to provide religious and social services," the rabbi says.
Nor will the AGJC be advocating for Israel and for its ties with countries it currently doesn't have any diplomatic relations with such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Kuwait. This will be left for politicians and dedicated organisations to tackle.
Abadie would rather throw his efforts into cementing the position of his new association and hope that as time goes by more countries will join in.
"Things are constantly changing in the region...right now there are no talks of other states [that have Jewish communities] to join our association but we are completely open for the prospect that countries like Lebanon and Egypt will also take part".