UAE embassy in UK hosts screening of film about Emirates' first Jewish community

'Amen-Amen-Amen' explores the story behind the community’s gift of a Torah scroll in honour of Founding Father Sheikh Zayed

The UAE embassy in London hosted a screening of the award-winning documentary 'Amen-Amen-Amen: A Story for Our Time'. Photo: UAE embassy in London
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An award-winning documentary, which tells the story of a small Jewish community’s donation of a handwritten Torah scroll in honour of Sheikh Zayed, was screened at a special event in London this week.

Amen-Amen-Amen explores the story behind the community’s gift, which was presented in 2019, the Year of Tolerance, to President Sheikh Mohamed, then Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.

The documentary, which has received many film festival awards, traces the events leading up to that moment.

The film’s director and producer, Tom Gallagher, was joined by members of the Jewish community and diplomats at a special screening of the documentary that was hosted by the UAE embassy in London on Wednesday.

Gallagher said the documentary tells the story of the establishment of a Jewish community in Dubai, the first in an Arab country for centuries, and its donation of the Sefer Torah scroll.

He told The National: “It is my hope that this documentary broadens people’s perspectives about what is possible when people of different faith traditions create thriving communities and neighbourhoods.

“My team and I have been very edified by the response that people have given after watching the film, as well as the response of film festivals around the globe.”

President Sheikh Mohamed, then Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, meets members of the Jewish community in the UAE in 2019. Photo: Amen the Film

Mansoor Abulhoul, UAE ambassador to the UK, said the documentary is testament to the UAE’s belief in a “tolerant, diverse, and inclusive society”.

“We have long prioritised freedom of religious belief because we recognise that a strong and confident society is one in which people of all faith backgrounds can live in peaceful coexistence.

Amen-Amen-Amen serves as a powerful testament to the UAE’s genuine commitment to these values,” he added.

The event, held at the Bulgari Hotel in Knightsbridge, was also attended by Simon Eder, who appears in the documentary.

Mr Eder moved back to London in 2014, where he now lives, but in 2010 he and his wife were residents of Dubai, where they became co-founders of the city’s first Jewish community.

“My wife then became pregnant with our eldest child in 2010 and we decided that either we were going to do something to establish a Jewish community or we were going to return to London,” he said.

Shortly after that, the couple met a rabbi in Sri Lanka who had been in touch with someone from Abu Dhabi who had an email database of Jews living in the UAE.

They reached out to people on the list, and in doing so founded a Jewish community in Dubai long before the signing of the Abraham Accords.

“Our very good friends who we used to sit with on a Friday night, had a home in Jumeirah that really became the centre of Jewish communal life there,” he said.

“The fact there was a Jewish community there, however tiny, actually helped in a tiny way, but important way, gave the Abraham Accords an importance on the ground.”

The community has continued to flourish since the Accords, with the establishment of kosher restaurants, other Jewish-owned businesses and the Gulf region’s first Jewish nursery.

Mr Eder had moved back to the UK by the time of the Sefer Torah donation, but was interviewed as one of the founding members of the community it emanated from.

“The Chief Rabbi of the UAE, Rabbi Sarna speaks about how he sees it as a very important milestone in the relations between Jews and Arabs in the region,” Mr Eder said.

“No one has ever done this before, donate a Torah scroll. It’s very much hoped the Abrahamic House, housing the synagogue, mosque and church, that this Sefer Torah will be housed in the synagogue.”

Updated: November 11, 2022, 3:34 PM
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