If at the beginning Sunday is the Jewish Hanukkah Festival The first candles of the eight-armed chandelier are lit, which are not commonly celebrated in Jerusalem, New York and Berlin. Jewish communities in Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Turkey and other Islamic countries will infect their Hanukiyas in public to celebrate the eight-day festival.
It is true that Jews in the Islamic world today are just a drop in the ocean – only 100,000 out of a total population of 1.5 billion – and live in small communities scattered across the map.
But against this isolation and integration, rabbis in Muslim countries have united to defend Jewish life and heritage. Your “Rafis Federation in Islamic Countries” may look back on its two-year existence next week – and celebrate its first victories.
According to Rabbi Mendi Citric, president of the Ashkenazi Community Association in Istanbul, Jews in the Islamic world have different concerns than Jewish communities in Christian countries.
“Historically, Jews lived much better in Muslim countries than in Christian countries,” Citrik said in an interview with Togesbeekel. “There are almost no massacres or massacres of Jews in Muslim communities as there were in Christian countries. From the very beginning of Islam, the Jews lived relatively peacefully with the Muslims.
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No religious problems
Religiously there is still no problem between Jews and Muslims, says Chitrik. In Istanbul, for example, many devout Muslims come to the synagogue to buy “pure” meat, especially meat that has been prepared according to religious rules. “You trust the butchers of a divine rabbi more than any other butcher in Turkey.”
Chitrik sees the conflict over Palestine as a purely political conflict that has destroyed Jewish communities in the Islamic world. So after the establishment of Israel, many Jews settled there. “Yes, the political differences that arose after the establishment of the state of Israel caused many problems in Iraq and Morocco. This led to the Jews moving from there to Israel, ”Citric admits.
Only four Muslim countries have significant Jewish minorities
One million Jews still lived in the Islamic world 100 years ago. Today, after the last Jew left Kabul a few weeks ago, there is no Jewish community in Afghanistan; In other countries the Jewish community has a few hundred or a thousand members.
Only four other Muslim countries in the world have significant Jewish minorities. Citric lists them: “These are Iran and Turkey, with 12,000 to 15,000 Jews each, and Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan – their exact number is unknown. According to municipalities, there are about 20,000 Jews living in Azerbaijan and between 15,000 and 20,000 in Kazakhstan.
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But – or especially – small congregations need unity and support to survive, says Rabbi Citric. His idea of an association of rabbis in Islamic countries was well received. The association started in December 2019 with rabbis from Abu Dhabi, Morocco, Azerbaijan, Nigeria and Turkey. Shortly afterwards, the Govt epidemic broke out. Nevertheless, the association already has about 50 rabbis in 15 Muslim countries.
Sometimes it’s about practical help in their work, says Chitrik. “When sending ritual items for the holidays, for example, it is much easier for me to send from Istanbul than from Brussels. I can call the chief rabbi of Iran; I can send religious items to Libya, Lebanon or Syria. As a rabbinical association based in a Muslim country, Reaching Muslim countries is very easy.
“We want to strengthen these communities”
Chithrik says churches can help each other in rabbinical matters through the association. When the Jewish community in Abu Dhabi wanted to create a certificate for kosher food, the association contacted intelligent rabbis and organizations to set up the required certification program. The rabbis bought a mikwei, a ceremonial water bath for the community in Dubai.
“When it comes to religious questions in Iran or elsewhere, we sit down and discuss Jewish law and look for solutions.”
Despite the small number of disappearances, Jews are not a dying minority in the Islamic world, says Chitrik. Last year’s Abraham Treaty, Israel and several Arab countries normalized their relations, gave a new impetus to Jewish life in the United Arab Emirates and gave hope to the entire region.
“There are still 100,000 Jews living in Islamic countries and we lead good Jewish lives – we want to strengthen these communities,” Citric says. He added: “The last two years have seen what we have been able to achieve in epidemics. It gives us hope for everything we can achieve in the future. “