Rabbi Yaakov Israel Herzog lives in the capital of Saudi Arabia and has granted himself the title of the “First Rabbi of Riyadh” after opening the first Chabad Movement house in Saudi Arabia to serve the thousands of Jewish expatriates living there. “One man isn’t waiting for peace to become official,” reported Israeli channel I24.
“There are many Jewish expats coming to the Kingdom to work,” said Herzog. He noted that out of 75,000 Americans working there, about one per cent are Jews, and others come from France, the UK and South America. “About 15,000 Jewish people work in the Kingdom on different employment contracts.”
He asked himself who was taking care of the needs of these people when he realised the size of the community. “After I aligned myself with what I want to do, and the current situation in Saudi Arabia and Islam in general, I realised that with the Jewish people they won’t have a problem.”
As a spiritual leader, the rabbi said that the services he aims to provide include leading prayers and hosting holiday meals.
According to an article published by the Times of Israel in 2021, Herzog was born in the United States, but lives in Israel. “His dual nationality allows him to visit Saudi Arabia despite Israel having no formal diplomatic ties with the kingdom.”
Herzog describes himself on LinkedIn as a “Rabbi and Entrepreneur” in Saudi Arabia, specialising in acquisitions as well as religious circumcision and interfaith dialogue. It has been noted that he uses the ambitious title of “Chief Rabbi of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” on both LinkedIn and the website he started for his rabbinical endeavours. He also describes himself on X (formerly Twitter), as “the rabbi of Saudi Arabia” and “the rabbi of the Arabian Peninsula.”
Herzog makes it clear that his plan for the future is nothing less than building Saudi Arabia’s first public, modern Jewish community.