Hundreds attend virtual event hosted by the Touro College and University System to hear from The First and Only Jewish Ambassador from an Arab Country
New York – In a conversation with Touro President Dr. Alan Kadish, Ambassador Houda Nonoo, Bahrain’s former ambassador to the United States, shared that while antisemitism is on the rise in the West, it is not an issue in the Arabian Gulf. Hundreds participated in the virtual event hailing from Bahrain, Brazil, Israel, the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Egypt, South America, and Spain.
In a wide-ranging, hour-long discussion as part of the Touro Talks program, Touro President Dr. Alan Kadish and Ambassador Nonoo recounted her experience as the Arab world’s first Jewish Ambassador, the Abraham Accords, and the Bahrain Jewish community’s experience when it was announced that the Kingdom would be participating in the historic Accords. Ambassador Nonoo spoke about visiting Israel for the first time in November 2020, when she joined the Foreign Minister’s delegation. The conversation concluded with a lengthy discussion about the growth of Jewish life in the Arabian Gulf and the role that the Association of Gulf Jewish Communities is playing in providing resources and services to the Jewish communities in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
Jews Living Alongside Muslims in Peaceful Coexistence
According to Ambassador Nonoo, the Kingdom of Bahrain has a longstanding commitment to interfaith dialogue and coexistence. Jewish life has flourished there, with Jewish families living alongside Muslim families, sharing their cultures, celebrating holidays, and attending each other’s weddings. Bahrain is home to the only indigenous Jewish community in the Gulf, the oldest synagogue in the GCC and the only operational Jewish cemetery. Today, the local community numbers around 50 in addition to many expats and U.S. military personnel stationed there. The community recently renovated its synagogue and is beginning regular in-person Shabbat services as the pandemic recedes.
While non-Bahrainis were surprised when Nonoo was appointed ambassador, her fellow citizens were not. “When I arrived in the United States as ambassador, a lot of people could not fathom that I was both Arab and Jewish,” she said.
The Abraham Accords – Building Relationships, Not Walls
On September 11, 2020, Bahrain announced that it would be the second Arab country to sign the Abraham Accords, after the United Arab Emirates.
“One of the drivers for the Accords was to create a better future for our children. We are setting an example for them that focuses on building relationships, not walls. Bahrain was primed for this,” Nonoo said.
Nonoo sees many economic opportunities for collaboration between Bahrain and Israel, including oil and gas, cyber security technology, manufacturing, financial services, healthcare, education, and travel and tourism. Already, hotels in Bahrain have begun providing kosher meals for Jewish visitors.
As the conversation came to a close, Dr. Kadish expressed optimism about future opportunities to collaborate and help support each other’s efforts. “As part of an international Jewish community, I hope we can further peace, economic prosperity and build a better life for all of us,” said Kadish.
Ambassador Nonoo invited Dr. Kadish and the Touro leadership to bring a delegation to visit the Kingdom – and plans are underway .to bring a Touro delegation soon.
The Touro College and University System
Touro is a system of non-profit institutions of higher and professional education. Touro College was chartered in 1970 primarily to enrich the Jewish heritage, and to serve the larger American and global community. Approximately 19,000 students are currently enrolled in its various schools and divisions. Touro has 35 campuses and locations in New York, California, Nevada, Illinois, Berlin, Jerusalem and Moscow. New York Medical College; Touro University California and Touro University Nevada; Touro University Worldwide and its Touro College Los Angeles division; as well as Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois are separately accredited institutions within the Touro College and University System. For more information, visit www.touro.edu