Our Rabbinate

Welcome Letter

Marhaba, Ahlan WaSahlan, مرحبا اهلا وسهلا,

!ברוכים הבאים

Welcome!

It is with great pleasure and enthusiasm that I welcome you to the United Arab Emirates, with the local Arabic words of welcome, and with the hospitality rooted and founded in the teaching of our common – Jews and Arabs – Patriarch Abraham.

Our community has been growing and flourishing in the last few years, in this beautiful country of tolerance, acceptance, peaceful coexistence and harmonious living among different faith communities.

With the Abraham Accords becoming a reality. History has been made; we are at the “crossroads of history.” The future bodes well for the UAE, the Gulf region, the Middle East. As a religious leader of the Jewish community in the Emirates, I have seen with my own eyes and experienced personally, how every day, as I walk through the streets of the Emirates, with my kippa on my head, I am welcomed and greeted kindly. The desire of the Emirati people to explore and learn more about the Jewish people, their history, their faith and their culture is truly inspiring. Very often we have local Emiratis join us for Shabbat meals as they want to learn more about our Jewish customs and rituals. We have so much in common: our faith in the one and only God; our steadfast adherence to family values, traditions, and customs; our respect for the sanctity of life and human dignity. These are just some examples of the many theological and traditional commonalities between Judaism and Islam, between Arabs and Jews.

As a Sephardi Arab Jew born in Beirut, Lebanon, I grew up speaking Arabic, eating Middle Eastern cuisine, smelling the aromas of the region, listening to the music and songs of the great classical Arab singers, hearing the inspirational chants of the mosque Adhan. I feel at home here in the UAE. I have returned to my region, to my childhood home, and I do so with a yearning to build up Jewish life here.

The Jewish community feels at home here as it continues to grow. Jewish businesspeople are settling here. This will increase the Jewish population of the Emirates, and the Gulf, more broadly. As Jews escape anti-Semitism in Europe and even in the United States of America and South America, we are looking forward to welcoming them with open arms here in the UAE, a country that lives by its principles of tolerance, coexistence, and freedom of worship. As a community, we are proud to represent the Jewish people with dignity and honor.

Please join our community in all our services, programs, and activities.

Looking forward to seeing you!

Rabbi Dr. Elie Abadie
Senior Rabbi
Jewish Council of the Emirates

Chief Rabbi Yehuda Sarna

Rabbi Yehuda Sarna was appointed Chief Rabbi of the JCE, UAE in 2019.  He has been traveling to the UAE as University Chaplain of New York University (NYU), to teach and to lead Jewish services, since 2010.

In addition to holding these posts, he is the Executive Director of the Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life at NYU and an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Public Administration in the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. Rabbi Sarna attended Yeshivat Har Etzion, and earned his B.A. in English Literature and Judaic Studies from Yeshiva College.

He is a 2003 graduate of the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary. He founded the Jewish Learning Fellowship, and has worked extensively to strengthen interfaith relationships, and to bridge the different sects of Judaism.

Rabbi Sarna has received numerous awards for his work. In 2009, he was an honoree at the Jewish Learning Initiative Awards. He was listed as one of the “36-under-36” by The Jewish Week. In 2012, Rabbi Sarna received an award from Temple of Understanding, along with NYU’s Imam Khalid Latif and Chelsea Clinton for their work in, “advancing a new model of integrating interfaith and cross cultural education into campus life.” In 2013, he was honored by Yeshivat Har Etzion as “Alumnus of the Year.”

Senior Rabbi Elie Abadie

Rabbi Dr. Elie Abadie was appointed Senior Rabbi of the JCE, UAE in 2020. He comes from a distinguished rabbinical lineage dating back to fifteenth century Spain and Provence. 

Rabbi Abadie was born in Beirut Lebanon, and grew up in Mexico City, eventually moving to the United States to attend Yeshiva University. He received his B.A. and his Master”s degree from Bernard Revel Graduate School of Yeshiva University, and his Rabbinic ordination from the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary.  He also attended SUNY Downstate Medical Center, and in addition to his rabbinic duties, is a practicing gastroenterologist.

Rabbi Abadie is the founding Rabbi and Spiritual Leader Emeritus of the Edmond J. Safra Synagogue, the Head of School of the Sephardic Academy, and the Rabbinic Advisor of the Moise Safra Community Center, all in Manhattan. He was also a member of the Board and an Officer of the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA). As a member of the board of the American Sephardi Federation and the World Sephardic Educational Center, he lectures on Sephardic Judaism, history, and comparative traditional law. He has been featured on CNN, ABC, Spanish Radio, and CCTV, as well as on the programs Teve Canal 41, Israeli Media, Galei Zahal, Arutz 10 and 7. Rabbi Abadie has received the Jerusalem Medal, Orden Del Merito Civil – the highest civil decoration by His Majesty King Juan Carlos I of Spain, and many other honors.  He is fluent in five languages including English and Arabic.