A Hasidic Jewish couple tied the knot in the Emirati capital of Abu Dhabi on Wednesday, one day before the second anniversary of the Abraham Accords signing by the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Israel.
The bride and groom, 29-year-old Rabbi Lev Duchman and 27-year-old Lea Hadad, are emissaries of Chabad, an international Orthodox Jewish Hasidic movement well-known for its service, outreach and generosity, particularly for providing kosher meals and religious support to Jewish travelers.
The couple saw 1,500 guests in attendance at their marriage ceremony, making the Duchman-Hadad wedding the UAE’s largest Jewish wedding yet.
Living in Abu Dhabi, the pair chose their wedding date to honor the anniversary of the Abraham Accords’ signing and because of the Hebrew date’s significance to Hasidic Jews – being the birthdate of both the Baal Shem Tov, the 18th-century founder of the Hasidic movement, and Chabad’s founder, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi.
Dignitaries and Emirati royals were among the guests, as well as Chabad rabbis serving at Chabad outreach centers throughout the world.
Because of the oppressive heat, the chuppah, the wedding canopy, was set up under a large air-conditioned tent overlooking the Etihad Arena, the Middle East’s largest indoor entertainment venue, located at Hilton Yas Island in Abu Dhabi.
A statement to the media said the wedding “is a source of great national pride, as a demonstration and living experience of the Emirates’ longstanding investment in creating a culture of coexistence and religious diversity.”
Hadad is rooted deeply in traditional Judaism and the Chabad movement; her father is the chief rabbi of Brussels and the Chabad emissary there, and her grandfather established the Chabad outreach in Milan.
Chabad emissaries usually will hold their post for many years and typically will serve as married couples. Very few rabbis are appointed as head emissaries, the title that Duchman holds, before being married.
Duchman came to his post in the UAE in 2014 and, since then, has helped to build much of the infrastructure of Jewish life there, including a Jewish day school, a mikvah (a ritual immersion bath) and a government-licensed kashrut agency (to handle the care of foods per Jewish dietary laws). Duchman works with several rabbis in the UAE who are not associated with Chabad and heads the Dubai-based Jewish Community Center, though he resides in Abu Dhabi where he is the rabbi of the Beit Tefilah Synagogue.
Before moving to the UAE, Duchman lived in Casablanca with his sister and brother-in-law, who serves as the Chabad emissary there. While in Casablanca, Duchman learned Arabic, and his new wife Lea reportedly is also planning to learn Arabic.
Following the UAE’s normalization deal two years ago with Israel, Duchman opened an upscale kosher restaurant in Dubai’s Burj Khalifa tower, the world’s tallest building.
The Jewish community in the UAE numbers several thousand and, in the past year, at least four new kosher restaurants have opened and seven locations have been holding weekly prayer services in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.