Kosher bagels allowed in Qatar for FIFA World Cup - rabbi

“We’re taking baby steps, who would have dreamt that there would be kosher bagels in Qatar?" said Rabbi Marc Schneier, adding that Qataris “have absolutely no problem with any type of kosher food.”

 EVERYTHING BAGELS and beet-cured salmon are sure to get your post-Yom Kippur break fast off to a good start.  (photo credit: Eitan Productions)
EVERYTHING BAGELS and beet-cured salmon are sure to get your post-Yom Kippur break fast off to a good start.
(photo credit: Eitan Productions)

Rabbi Marc Schneier of New York denied the claims published by The Jerusalem Post that Qatar banned hot kosher food and Jewish prayer.

Schneier, an influential Jewish figure in the Muslim world and president of the New York-based Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, a global center for Muslim-Jewish relations, said on Monday 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," he said. "The only person that spoke to the Qataris about this [on behalf of the Jewish community] was me."

"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."

Rabbi Marc Schneier

He explained that he only had three basic requests from Qatar: "Kosher food, inclusivity and permitting direct flights from Israel." He said that "they delivered. I never asked for more and I was the only official channel."

He added that since no one knows exactly how many kosher keeping Jews will be visiting Qatar 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.  

"I'm not an unnamed source," he said of the report, "I have a relationship with Hassan Al Thawadi (the official Qatari representative to the FIFA World Cup) since 2017. We both said that we'll work for the Jewish fans. I will be the first to say they have delivered on all three commitments.”

General view during the opening ceremony of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, Al Khor, Qatar, November 20, 2022 (credit: REUTERS/PAWEL KOPCZYNSKI)General view during the opening ceremony of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, Al Khor, Qatar, November 20, 2022 (credit: REUTERS/PAWEL KOPCZYNSKI)

Schneier added that as of now, the kosher catering service will only be creating dairy foods - and until further notice, only bagels and challah.

The struggles of religious Jews in Qatar for the FIFA World Cup

As published exclusively by the Post on Sunday, Jewish organizations have said that even though they were promised otherwise, Qatar won’t allow any cooked kosher food to be sold or offered to visitors of the FIFA World Cup.

Sources in Jewish organizations told the Post that Qatar broke another promise to allow Jewish prayer services in Doha during the games, claiming it couldn’t secure this type of activity and then banned it completely.

“We were promised to be allowed to create prayer spaces in order for religious Jews who came to see the games to have a place of worship,” a representative of a Jewish organization said. “We were recently told that they banned places of worship for Jews because they cannot secure them.”

According to other sources, there is an estimate of more than 10,000 religious Jews from Israel and around the world that are expected to arrive in Doha.

“They were promised to be able to cook kosher food including kosher meat, but at the moment have only been allowed to sell cold bagel sandwiches,” they said.

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

As for prayer services, Schneier said that there haven’t been any groups that requested large services.

Yet other rabbinic sources that have been in touch with Qatari officials said 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 said 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.

Another head of an Orthodox American Jewish community said that they were planning on bringing a big group to Qatar for the games but have decided not to take the trip because of the lack of Kosher food.

The mashgiach Rabbi Mendy Chitrik of Istanbul told the Post on Monday 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.

The Post reached out to Qatar’s Foreign Ministry for comment, but has not heard back.