The First Official Jewish community to be established in the UAE is subject of new film
The film, “Amen-Amen-Amen,” is set for release in early 2021
December 14, 2020 -- Religion Media Company released the trailer for a new documentary film that provides the first close-up look at the Jewish community in the United Arab Emirates consisting of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al-Quwain, and Fujairah, a small, little-known yet vibrant community.
The film is called AMEN-AMEN-AMEN – the word is the same in Hebrew, Arabic and English – and it looks at this community’s emergence through the eyes of its Rabbi Yehuda Sarna, Chief Rabbi of the Jewish Community of the Emiratesand other members, through the journey of a Torah scroll that they dedicated to the memory of the founding father of the United Arab Emirates, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.
The UAE is a Muslim nation that is a unique oasis of religious diversity- rarein the region. In 2018, several members of the Jewish congregation in the UAE decided to have a Torah made in honor of the late Sheikh Zayed, founder of the UAE, and presented to his son, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.
From a workshop in Israel, where the scroll was meticulously written, to a workshop in Brooklyn where the Torah’s elaborate case was finished, to a November 2019 dedication ceremony in a palace (name) in Abu Dhabi, exclusive footage takes the viewer inside an intimate story that is both seed and harvest of a global transformation that is taking root and making headlines.
“The gesture of dedicating a Torah scroll [gifted] to an Arab ruler is an amazing breakthrough,” says Eli Epstein, a businessman and interfaith activist who deserves credit for the whole concept is to be congratulated.
Rabbi Yehuda Sarna, Chief Rabbi of the Jewish Community of the Emirates, is quoted in the film, “I am under no illusion that this gift [of a Torah] will solve complicated geopolitical problems,” “What this gift does do is it gives us new material [as a base for] creating a new narrative in the Middle East.”
The visit of Pope Francis to the UAE in February 2019 plus the historic Abraham Accord between Israel and the UAE signed in September 2020 provide the backdrop to AMEN-AMEN-AMEN and its story of a few hundred Jews who jokingly refer to themselves as an “underground” synagogue.
As Jews around the world celebrate Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, amid the darkness of winter, this documentary traces the growth of the first Jewish community in the UAE in centuries, and a big step that all the Arabian Peninsula will follow. The documentary is following a trend and a growth that young Arabs themselves are also embracing.
Shatha Al Hashmi, an Emirati who is a 2018 graduate of NYU Abu Dhabi stated that “The country [the UAE] was built on two main pillars which are tolerance and acceptance. They are a part of who we are. They are in our DNA fabric.”
Gloria Starr Kins, Government Liaison and Protocol of the project said “Bahrain for centuries had a thriving jewish community, but through attrition and young people seeking life partners and wanting to expand internationally, the community diminished. It is amazing that encouraged by the current government, the UAE has attracted successful Jewish entrepreneurs from all over the world, including Israel.”
“It’s a privilege to tell this important and timely story of openness and inclusivity in the UAE,” said Tom Gallagher, founder of Religion Media Company and Executive Producer of the documentary. “This is an uplifting human story of mutual respect and religious pluralism, and in a place that will probably surprise many Americans. It is a powerful counterpoint to much of the news today, and a crucial example of the society we can become.”
Among those interviewed for the film are the former US Ambassador to the UAE, Marcelle M. Wahba, who was born in Egypt; journalist Robert Worth, a veteran Middle East correspondent for the New York Times Magazine; John Sexton, President Emeritus, New York University and Co-Creator of NYU Abu Dhabi; Reverend Andy Thompson, until recently, a longtime senior chaplain, St. Andrew’s Anglican Church in Abu Dhabi; Rabbi Elie Abadie, M.D., Senior Rabbi, Jewish Community of the Emirates; and Pastor Bob Roberts, senior pastor at Northwood Church in Keller, Texas and a leading American evangelical and interfaith activist. Many other scholars and Emiratis and Jewish leaders are also part of the film.
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About Religion Media Company
Founded by Tom Gallagher in January 2020, Religion Media Company is a nonprofit dedicated to producing original media projects that tell powerful stories of our common search for meaning, wherever those stories are found. Tom is a journalist and lawyer and was most recently CEO and publisher of a nonprofit news organization that covered religion. https://amenthefilm.com/