Look: Over 1,500 guests attend the UAE's first wedding of a rabbi

Guests at the largest Jewish event in the country’s history included prominent ambassadors and dignitaries


Ismail Sebugwaawo

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Photos: KT
Photos: KT

Published: Thu 15 Sep 2022, 12:07 AM

It was pure joy and excitement in the UAE capital as guests from all around the world attended the first ever wedding of a rabbi in the country.

The rabbi to the UAE, Rabbi Levi Duchman, married Lea Hadad of Brussels, Belgium on Wednesday, September 14, at a magnificent ceremony held at the Hilton Yas Hotel.

1,500 guests from around the world attended the wedding – the largest Jewish event in the Arabian Gulf in recent history – including prominent rabbis and dignitaries. More than 20 ambassadors, including those from Japan, South Korea and Finland, were also in attendance.

The ceremony began with the bride and groom being escorted to the chuppah, the wedding canopy, where a Ketubah, the wedding contract, was signed. After being apart for the customary week prior to the nuptials at the wedding, Rabbi Duchman then placed the traditional veil on his bride.

The new bride circled the groom seven times as part of the elaborate rituals during the grand wedding ceremony. Parents blessed the bride and groom, and the groom then gave the wedding ring to his bride.

The Rabbi's wedding coincided with the second anniversary of the Abraham Accords signed on September 15, 2020, which saw the UAE normalise its relations with Israel.

The event is being seen as a demonstration and living embodiment of the Emirates’ long-standing investment in creating a culture of coexistence and religious diversity. The flourishing of Jewish life across the UAE is a testament to the commitment of the country's government to those values, and its warm welcome and constant support of the Jewish community in helping Jewish life thrive.

Rabbi Duchman, 29, has been living in the UAE for eight years, building much of the critical infrastructure for Jewish life here, which has become the Arab world’s fastest growing community.

"The wedding is an important statement for the community, the UAE government and the world", said Rabbi Duchman, "that we aren't just here to visit – but that we want to be part of the fabric of the UAE.”

“Lea is going to support me in leading the Jewish community of the UAE and supporting them with all they need. She has a very strong background in the Arab world with both sets of grandparents born in Morocco.

“What's unique and special is that our wedding has brought together many people who have never been to a part of the Arab world. To have them here at the wedding is not only about the event, but is an important symbol in the journey of supporting the growth of the Jewish community. It's something that hasn't happened before, so there has been no precedent for this."

His spouse, Hadad, 27, was born in Brussels, Belgium, and is the daughter of Rabbi Menachem Hadad, Chief Rabbi of Brussels. She was first introduced to Rabbi Duchman earlier this year in Tel Aviv, and will be relocating from there to Abu Dhabi where the couple will begin their new life together in the family home.

“The excitement of moving to the Emirates is big, but I'm actually more excited to get married to Rabbi Levi,” Hadad said.

She explained that Rabbi Duchman lives by the values she was looking for in a match: primarily kindness and a good heart. “He’s very giving, and for me that was such an important quality: that he was passionate not only about Judaism, but you could see his passion for life.

He can see what’s good for people. He can truly see their needs, and he can provide for them, which is very important. He has a special gift.”

Chabad Paphus, a friend of the groom who travelled from Cyprus to attend the wedding, said: “I’m excited to attend this historic wedding. Rabb Levi is my great friend and I'm happy for him.”

Another guest, David Louk, a Chazzan (Jewish musician) from Dubai, said: “This is a special wedding. It is one of the greatest events of its kind in the UAE, and I’m happy to be part of it.”

The event was attended by over 20 religious leaders, including the head of the Christian, Catholic and Buddhist communities in the UAE. The latest charge d’affairs of the Vatican also attended the wedding, in addition to guests including the Chief Rabbi of Central Africa, Shlomo Ben Tallila.

Popular Orthodox American singer Avraham Fried also performed at the celebrations.


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