Amen-Amen-Amen: A Story for Our Times premieres Wednesday, December 29 at 9 p.m. on WLIW21. Stream now.
The film Amen-Amen-Amen is named for the word that is the same in Hebrew, Arabic and English. In Jewish, Muslim and Christian worship, the word often concludes prayer and is translated in English as “truly,” or “let it be so.” This new documentary tells the story of the first Jewish community formed in a Muslim country in centuries, and an historic gift of a Torah scroll dedicated to the memory of an Arab-Muslim ruler, the late Sheikh Zayed, the Founding Father of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This was the first time in the history of the world a Torah was dedicated to an Arab-Muslim ruler. The UAE is a Muslim nation that is a unique oasis of religious diversity – rare in its region.
The Torah scroll was presented by the Jewish community of the Emirates to His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, in a private ceremony in November 2019.
From a workshop in Israel, where the scroll was meticulously written, to a workshop in Brooklyn where the Torah’s elaborate case was finished, to the dedication ceremony at the Sea Palace in Abu Dhabi, exclusive footage takes the viewer inside an intimate story that is both seed and harvest of a global transformation that is taking root and making headlines.
Rabbi Yehuda Sarna, Chief Rabbi of the Jewish Community of the Emirates, is quoted in the film, “I am under no illusion that this gift [of a Torah] will solve complicated geopolitical problems,” “What this gift does do is it gives us new material [as a base for] creating a new narrative in the Middle East.”
The visit of Pope Francis to the UAE in February 2019 plus the historic Abraham Accord between Israel and the UAE signed in September 2020 provide the backdrop to AMEN-AMEN-AMEN and its story of a few hundred Jews who jokingly refer to themselves as an “underground” synagogue.
As Jews around the world celebrate Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, amid the darkness of winter, this documentary traces the growth of the first Jewish community in the UAE in centuries.
Shatha Al Hashmi, an Emirati who is a 2018 graduate of NYU Abu Dhabi stated that “The country [the UAE] was built on two main pillars which are tolerance and acceptance. They are a part of who we are. They are in our DNA fabric.”
Among those interviewed for the film are the former US Ambassador to the UAE, Marcelle M. Wahba, who was born in Egypt; journalist Robert Worth, a veteran Middle East correspondent for the New York Times Magazine; John Sexton, President Emeritus, New York University and Co-Creator of NYU Abu Dhabi; Reverend Andy Thompson, until recently, a longtime senior chaplain, St. Andrew’s Anglican Church in Abu Dhabi; Rabbi Elie Abadie, M.D., Senior Rabbi, Jewish Community of the Emirates; and Pastor Bob Roberts, senior pastor at Northwood Church in Keller, Texas, and a leading American evangelical and interfaith activist. Many other scholars and Emiratis and Jewish leaders are also part of the film.