Hamptons Rabbi Misleads Kosher Fans at World Cup Concerning Availability of Food & Prayer - The Jewish Voice
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Hamptons Rabbi Misleads Kosher Fans at World Cup Concerning Availability of Food & Prayer

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Hamptons Rabbi Misleads Kosher Fans at World Cup Concerning Availability of Food & Prayer

Edited by: TJVNews.com

Conflicting reports have surfaced concerning the availability of kosher food for observant Jews who have traveled to Doha, Qatar for the World Cup soccer matches.

The internationally renowned sporting event has attracted record numbers to this Middle East country and millions around the world are taking it in all the action on the field on television. Moreover, it has been reported that an estimated 10,000 Jewish fans from Israel and other countries traveled  to Qatar to watch the quadrennial sporting event.

On Monday, the MiddleEastEye.com web site reported that the  World Jewish Congress (WJC), a Geneva-based lobbying group for Jewish causes, said that meals cooked to Jewish dietary rules and public prayers have been banned.

Also on Monday, i24News.com reported that the spokesperson for the Israeli delegation present in Qatar said that those who strictly adhere to kosher dietary laws will benefit from kosher food at the World Cup matches.

The I24News reported indicated that the kosher kitchen is under the supervision of Rabbi Mendy Chitrik of Istanbul.

“Several rabbis from other Gulf countries and the United States have taken initiatives to provide kosher food to Jewish and Israeli tourists,” Alon Lavi, the Israeli delegation spokesperson, told i24News.com.

The Jerusalem Post reported that a group of wealthy American Jews had cancelled their trip to the Gulf nation because of the absence of kosher food and Jewish praying areas.

“There is no kosher food, there are no Shabbat meals and no public prayer services. They would separate religion from sports, so how come great Qatar doesn’t know how to secure Jewish worshippers?” a source told The Jerusalem Post.

In a statement, Ronald S Lauder, the president of the WJC, said,  “I am outraged by reports that Qatari authorities have banned the sale of cooked kosher food as well as prohibited Jews from congregating for public prayer, in connection with their presence at the World Cup.”

“I am outraged by reports that Qatari authorities have banned the sale of cooked kosher food as well as prohibited Jews from congregating for public prayer, in connection with their presence at the World Cup. With tens of thousands of observant Jews expected to travel to the country in the coming weeks, this announcement effectively makes their attendance impossible, as was reported by Middle East Eye.

“The World Cup should serve as a unifying event for all sports fans, regardless of religious affiliation, who come together because of their love of sports, “ Lauder added.  “The World Jewish Congress, whose Executive Committee will meet in the coming days at the Vatican, calls upon FIFA and the Qatari government to safeguard the ability of Jewish fans to openly practice their faith.”

Middle EastEye.com reported that a representative of a Jewish organization told the Jerusalem Post that they were promised they would be allowed “prayer spaces in order for religious Jews who came to see the games to have a place of worship. However,  we were recently told that they banned places of worship for Jews because they cannot secure them.”

A  source said that, at the moment, Jewish fans have only been “allowed to sell cold bagel sandwiches” in Qatar.

I24 News reported that Lavi added that, “you also have to keep in mind that observant Jews have generally only planned a short stay in Qatar, so they also have the possibility of switching to fruits and vegetables during this time.”

It was also reported that Rabbi Marc Schneier, who heads up an affluent congregation at the Hamptons synagogue and is the president of the New York-based Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, is the person who  facilitated the opening of the first-ever kosher kitchen in Qatar, through joint efforts of the American and Qatari authorities, according to the MiddleEastEye.com report.

The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding is the global address for Muslim-Jewish relations according to a November 18th press release that addressed the matter.

The same press release indicated that Rabbi Schneier is widely considered one of the most influential Jewish figures in the Muslim world. They did not provide more precise details on Rabbi Schneier’s role in Middle Eastern Muslim relations or if he and these nations are conducting any business or financial transactions.

For his part, Rabbi Schneier said, “The FIFA World Cup is about bringing people together, interacting with different nations, cultures and faiths, and making everyone feel included and welcome.The release indicated that he had been working closely with Qatari officials for the past 5 years to accommodate the attendance of Jewish fans at the World Cup.

“The leadership of the State of Qatar is performing a ‘mitzvah’ by making kosher food available for members of the worldwide Jewish community, including those traveling from Israel,” Rabbi Schneier said.

“Furthermore, the Qataris have stood by and followed through on every commitment that was made to welcome Jewish fans to this prestigious event.  The FIFA World Cup is about bringing people together, interacting with different nations, cultures and religions, and making everyone feel included and welcome,” added Rabbi Schneier.

On Monday, the Jerusalem Post reported that the only kosher food available at the World Cup are bagels and challah.

The JPost reported that Rabbi Schneier told them that “I’ve been in touch with the Qataris, to their request, in order to make sure that the FIFA World Cup is inclusive to Jews and Israelis. I never asked for hot food. The only person that spoke to the Qataris about this on behalf of the Jewish community was me.”

He added that since no one knows exactly how many Jews who observe kosher dietary laws are in Qata for the World Cup and the fact that most of them won’t be in the country for the next month, made it difficult to create kosher food – beyond bagels and challah, the JPost reported.

Jewish organizations, however,  have said that they were promised more than strictly bagels and challah and that in addition, Qatar won’t allow any cooked kosher food to be sold or offered to visitors of the  World Cup.

A source told the JPost that the Jewish organizations were “promised that they would be able to cook kosher food including kosher meat, but at the moment have only been allowed to sell cold bagel sandwiches.”

Rabbi  Schneier responded by saying, “We’re taking baby steps, who would have dreamt that there would be kosher bagels in Qatar?”  He added that the Qatari authorities “have absolutely no problem with any type of kosher food.”

As to whether Jewish prayer has been banned in Qatar, the JPost reported that Rabbi Schneier said that there haven’t been any groups that requested large services.

Sources in the rabbinic community told the JPost that they have been in touch with Qatari officials and that there were suggestions on the table to offer a hotel hall that would serve as a synagogue and to turn the hotel kitchen into a kosher kitchen. The source also told the JPost that they weren’t able to receive approval for these suggestions.

“Everything at this World Cup is at the last second, so the same thing was with the kashrut,” the rabbinic source said on Monday, according to the JPost report.

Also on Monday, the supervisor of the kosher kitchen in Qatar, Rabbi Mendy Chitrik of Istanbul told the JPost that that they have begun baking kosher bagels with different spreads and toppings – but that there are no plans for more substantial kosher meals in the near future.

Jewish organizations appear to have a great deal of justification for their disappointment and even anger that the only kosher food that is available to them in Qatar are bagels. They point to the assurances given them back in 2018 that a reasonable but certainly not extensive selection of kosher food would be available at the World Cup.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, one upset soccer fan who keeps kosher said, “How can anyone live for two weeks or more exclusively on bagels and challah and an occasional spread on the bagel? People need protein and healthy carbs, such as chicken, red meat, vegetables, whole grains and fiber to stay healthy. We are not asking for anything more than non-kosher eating fans, in terms of food selection.”

The unnamed source also pointed to a December 2018 article that appeared in The Forward newspaper in which it said that Rabbi Schneier, a frequent visitor to the Arabian Gulf, claimed that he has been asked to consult on creating options for kosher food at the FIFA event.

“If this rabbi has been working on this since 2018, wouldn’t one think that he must have known that other than bagels, nothing else would be available in terms of kosher food,? the source said.  He added: “My question is, why didn’t he pipe up earlier to alert people of the exceptionally limited kosher options.  His silence up until now raises questions as to precisely how deep his involvement is with the Qatari government. One wonders if he intentionally misled kosher food adherents in order that they would come to the World Cup and spend tons of money on lodging and other expenses just to be able to say that he facilitated the padding of the coffers of the Qatari government.”

He also noted, “We must be every cognizant of the fact that the government of Qatar directly supports Hamas and is no friend of Israel’s. Why is the world, would a rabbi who claims to be Orthodox even work with a government that ultimately seeks the eradication of Israel through their support of the Hamas terrorist organization”


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