Montenegro is one of the few countries in Europe where after the war, there were more Jews than before, said the country’s president Milo Dukanovic who notes that in the small Balkan nation “there is no antisemitism” contrary to other countries in the region.
He made the remarks in an address after receiving the first European King David Award, from the European Jewish Association (EJA) Chairman Rabbi Menachem Margolin.
President Dukanovic was honored by the Jewish group “in recognition for his huge contribution in safeguarding Jewish life in Montenegro and building a tolerant society that should be emulated across the European continent.”
The award ceremony took place in the European Jewish building, next to the European Council in Brussels, in the presence of ambassadors, members of the European Parliament and other dignitaries.
The president of the Jewish community of Montenegro and the country’s rabbi, Rabbi Ari Edelkopf, were also present.
“Montenegro may be a relatively small country, but even a small light can burn darkness away,” Rabbi Margolin said. “We earnestly thank the President for all his hard work, in helping create and supporting the first synagogue in the country, in the example he sets for others to follow and for his humbling and deep convictions and care when it comes to protecting and nurturing this small but flourishing Jewish community.”
In his address, President Dukoanovic said the award is “dedicated to the people of Montenegro’s accomplishment of building a tolerant, inclusive and pluralistic society based on the principles of mutual respect and coexistence.”
Jews are known to have lived in Montenegro (a former Yugoslav Republic) in ancient and medieval times. The Jewish community in the country is one of the youngest Jewish communities in the world, having been officially registered in July 2011. At the end of 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.
Montenegro, which declared independence in 2006 and is currently negotiating to join the EU, is a highly multi-confessional country and there is no public manifestation of anti-Semitism.
During the celebration of Chanukah, there is no need for security measures, noted President Dukanovic. Moreover, there is great respect for Jewish people and their contribution to world civilization.
Today there are around 300 Jews living in the country, mainly in the capital Podgorica. Every year, thousands of Israeli tourists visit the country.