Antisemitism has never taken root in Montenegro, says Chief Rabbi

Montenegro is one of few countries in the world where antisemitism does not manifest itself in public at all, said the Chief Rabbi of Montenegro and Croatia, Luciano Mose Prelevic.

The 66-year-old rabbi, whose father was Montenegrin and mother Jewish, also serves the Jewish community of Croatia as its chief rabbi in Zagreb.

“Antisemitism has never become or been part of the state ideology in Montenegro, so it has never taken root among citizens,” the rabbi said, stressing the community’s deep historical roots in the tiny country.

“Montenegro is among the few countries in the world where there is no public manifestation of antisemitism or negative attitude towards the Jewish people,” he added.

The small community, one of the youngest Jewish communities in the world, having been officially registered in July 2011, has no synagogue.

But despite their tiny number, they are active in different fields, especially in organizing the annual “Mahar Conference”, a central meeting point for Jewish communities in the Balkan region.

The conference aims to prevent the assimilation of Jews in the region and establish closer cooperation between its Jewish communities.

In January 2012, the Jewish community and the government signed the Act on Mutual Relations whereby Judaism was recognized as the fourth official religion of Montenegro.

Prelevic said the act guarantees Jews in Montenegro full autonomy in regulating their religious and national relations to the extent that they do not conflict with the law.

“The Jewish community has an excellent relationship with state institutions. We receive a certain budget on an annual level. And, as well as recognizing Judaism as an official religion, the state has allocated land for the construction of a synagogue in the capital, Podgorica,” Prelevic explained.

The government in 2013 gave the Jewish community land on a 99-year lease to build the country’s first synagogue when the Jewish community was led by Yasha Alfandari.

According to the European Jewish Congress, Jews have been present in Montenegro at least since the Middle Ages, though it is not known whether they ever had their own synagogue.

Prelevic said that besides building a synagogue in Podgorica, the construction of a cultural center is also planned.

“As for other parts of Montenegro, depending on the need, time will tell,” he said.

“Our goal is to preserve our ethnic and religious affiliation in order to prevent assimilation. We need to create the conditions for Jewish values to be realized within the community,” Prelevic said.

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