Chief Rabbi opens first purpose-built synagogue in Arab world in 100 years

The Abrahamic Family House is a complex serving as a ‘powerful platform for inspiring and nurturing understanding and acceptance between people of goodwill’


The first purpose-built synagogue in the Arab world in nearly a century was officially inaugurated on Thursday, in a ceremony attended by the UK’s Chief Rabbi Sir Ephraim Mirvis.

The Abrahamic Family House in Abu Dhabi is a religious complex consisting of a mosque, a church, and a synagogue, and will, according to its website, “serve as a community for inter-religious dialogue and exchange, nurturing the values of peaceful co-existence and acceptance among different beliefs, nationalities and cultures.”

The complex’s synagogue, the Moses Ben Maimon Synagogue will hold its first Shabbat service on Friday and will open to the public on March 1.

Chief Rabbi Mirvis was among those invited to take part in the inauguration ceremony, attaching the building’s very first mezuzah to the wall.

On Twitter, The UAE’s President His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan said: “Building bridges of communication, coexistence, and cooperation among all is the UAE’s consistent approach.

“The UAE has a proud history of people from diverse communities working together to create new possibilities. As the Abrahamic Family House is inaugurated, we remain committed to harnessing the power of mutual respect, understanding and diversity to achieve shared progress.”

The three houses of worship sit upon a secular visitor pavilion, not affiliated with any specific religion, and serves as a centre “for all people of goodwill to come together as one.”

Chief Policy and Political Affairs Officer of the American Jewish Committee, Jason Isaacson, said: “Even as the Islamic Republic of Iran brutally represses its own people, recklessly advances its nuclear program, and sows discord among its neighbors, the opposite shore of the Arabian Gulf finds leaders and institutions dedicated to a different, more inclusive, more peaceful region.

"Perhaps no entity symbolizes that difference, and that shining ray of hope, as dramatically as the Abrahamic Family House. Its opening, and the contributions it promises, are cause for celebration.”

Since the 2020 Abraham Accords, which normalised relations between the UAE and Israel, the country’s Jewish population is slowly growing. There are three synagogues currently operating in the UAE, and an estimated 150 families, or around 3,000 Jews, living in the country.

In 2019, the country’s Jewish community gifted a specially created Torah scroll to President Sheikh Mohammed, as a symbol of the UAE’s approach to religious pluralism.

There are now some 100 flights a week between Israel and the UAE, and bilateral trade between the two countries is expected to grow to $10 billion annually in the next four years.

The Crossroads of Civilization Museum became the first-ever museum in the region highlighting Jewish heritage in the Gulf, and has a wing dedicated to Holocaust remembrance housing a Czech torah scroll rescued during the war.

The Abrahamic Family House project was announced following Pope Francis’s visit to the UAE in 2019, the first papal visit to the Arabian Peninsula.

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