In response to a request from the leadership of the United Arab Emirates, Orthodox Union (OU) Kosher, the world’s largest kosher certification agency, will now be the leading kosher certification agency within the UAE, and will do so in partnership with the local Jewish community.
The OU Kosher will oversee all kosher food in hotels throughout Abu Dhabi as well as events such as Expo 2020 which has been postponed to October 2021-March 2022.
According to OU Kashrut CEO Rabbi Menachem Genack, UAE Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan was behind a directive issued by the Department of Culture and Tourism in Abu Dhabi, telling hotels to be prepared to offer kosher cuisine options to their guests, upon request.
The instructions, issued Tuesday (Sept. 8) were addressed to the General Managers of the capital city’s hotels, saying, “Based on the commitment of the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi to ensure certain foods are available for all visitors and tourists in the emirate of Abu Dhabi, please note that all hotel establishments are advised to include Kosher food options on room service menus and at all food & beverage outlets in their establishments.”
The hotels were instructed to “seek Kosher certification for handling kosher meals; to designate an area in all kitchens for Kosher food preparation; and to label Kosher menu items with a clear and visible label/reference with a recognizable symbol that denotes “Kosher” as per acquired certification.”
The directive ends with a pleasant, “Thank you for your cooperation and adherence to implement Kosher food standards in Abu Dhabi.”
A selection of tailored menus is to be made available to those requesting kosher cuisine, all of which will be packaged and sealed with the OU stamp that certifies the food is kosher and has not been tampered with.
This follows the successful kashrut supervision by the OU over the kosher food for the historic visit of the US and Israeli delegations to Abu Dhabi last week. All of those meals were prepared by Elli’s Kosher Kitchen, a catering service founded and owned by Ellie Krielle, who started the first-ever kosher catering company in the UAE upon moving to Dubai from South Africa with her family six years ago.
Ellie started the company after realizing there was a lack of kosher catering options in Dubai, especially for Jewish travelers passing through who needed kosher food. Today Elli’s Kosher Kitchen caters for Emirates Airlines, local hotels, business and diplomatic events, as well as for tourists on vacation. Calling her cuisine “Kosherati” – kosher cooking with an Emirati twist — the original kosher certification came from the South African Beit Din; but Ellie recently asked the American Orthodox Union – a worldwide kashrut supervision organization – to step in.
“The OU came in at their request,” explains Rabbi Menachem Genack, CEO and Director of Kashrut at the Orthodox Union (OU), who spoke with JewishPress.com on Wednesday in an online interview.
This past year, there have been many requests for kosher food in the Emirates, and the demand for Elli’s Kosher Kitchen catering is growing by leaps and bounds.
“Through her, Rabbi Issachar Krakowski — (a mashgiach kashruth, or kosher food supervisor) came from Israel and supervised the food arrangements relative to the delegation that came from Israel,” Rabbi Genack said.
He added that the supervision for the kashruth of the delegation was only the beginning.
“I was told that the Crown Prince (Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan) said that he wants for this Pesach to see the hotels full,” Rabbi Genack told JewishPress.com.
“They’ve built a shul, a church, and a mosque [at the ‘Abrahamic Family House’ interfaith complex in Abu Dhabi], and they have the hotels in the area there.
“At his directive, so to speak, he wants to see all those full this coming Pesach,” the rabbi said.
“Hopefully the pandemic will have slowed down by January, and tourism will resume. A lot of people are going to want to go to the Emirates,” he added, and said the organization is going to have its hands full “in terms of trying to coordinate all of that.”
Nevertheless, the momentous nature of the task and the forces that brought it about, has given the rabbi much to think about.
“We’re happy to be involved in what’s really an historic relationship and hopefully portends well for other Arab countries,” he said. “In terms of the Emirates, it’s so important because it serves as a model for what could be.
“We know that the peace treaty with Egypt and Jordan, as significant as it is, is really government to government. It hasn’t really seeped down in terms of the general population. With the Emirates you have the feeling it’s not like that, it’s much broader, much deeper.”