There was a huge Hasidic wedding in the UAE

Before 2020 the country's tiny Jewish population stayed mostly private, worshipping in the shadows
Lea Duchman and Rabbi Levi Duchman attend their wedding ceremony at Abu Dhabi’s Hilton Yas Island on September 14, 2022. (Courtesy: Israel in UAE)

The largest Jewish wedding to date was held Wednesday in Abu Dhabi– a moment that was more than a decade in the making.

Rabbi Levi Duchman, the first rabbi to serve in the UAE, married Lea Hadad in front of 1,500 guests that included several Muslim and Christian friends. Emirati royals were even seen dancing the hora at the big event.

Duchman, 29, is from Brooklyn and has been in the UAE since 2014. Hadad, 27, is of Jewish Moroccan descent and is the daughter of Belgian Chief Rabbi Menachem Hadad.

Rabbi Motti Seligson, director of public relations for Chabad, who is a friend of Duchman and traveled to attend the wedding, told The Forward: “This event is a historic moment for Jewish life in the Arab world.”

Prior to 2010, antisemitism was a common occurrence in the United Arab Emirates. Just how bad was it? In 2002 the think tank named after the founder of the UAE published a report on the Holocaust that said Zionists – not Nazis – “were the people who killed the Jews in Europe.” Up until a national tolerance program was instituted in 2010 it was not uncommon to read opinion pieces in the Emirati press that included antisemitic tropes and accusations.

Fast forward to September of 2020 and the signing of the historic Israel–United Arab Emirates peace agreement that led to full normalization of relations between the two countries. After the treaty, which was part of the Abraham Accords, was signed the country’s tiny Jewish population came out of the shadows.

Today there is a very active Jewish community in the UAE. The tiny Gulf nation is home about 500 Jews, several synagogues, kosher food establishments, Jewish schools and community centers.