(photo credit: Robert Couse-Baker)
Montenegro’s Prime Minister Igor Lukšić on Saturday told Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger his country would recognize Judaism as a state religion.
During a meeting held in the capital Podgorica, the head of state said the Jewish faith will receive the same legal status as Roman Catholicism, Orthodox Christianity and Islam.
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“I will do everything I can to encourage this issue, whether through legislation or amending existing regulations,” Lukšić told Metzger who was accompanied by a delegation from the Rabbinical Center of Europe (RCE) and the local Jewish community.
There are no more than a handful of Jews living in the republic but state officials hoped elevating the religion’s status would encourage interest and investment from Jews around the world in Montenegro.
Yasha Alfandri, President of the Jewish community, was quoted as welcoming the declarations by the Montenegro officials.
“This is truly an important and exciting step taken by the leaders of
Montenegro and will certainly provide a boost for the development of our
community and raises Jewish pride in our wonderful country,” Alfandri
The meetings were coordinated by Rabbi Levi Matusof, Director of the European Jewish Public Affairs in Brussels.
In recent years there's been several states in the Balkans have showed
an interest in in reviving local Jewish communities that have existed in
the region since antiquity. Macedonia has helped fund a Jewish museum
in its capital Skopje; Greece's Thessaloniki has highlighted its rich
Jewish heritage to attract tourists and businessman and last year
Albania appointed its first ever chief rabbi. Still, the Jewish
communities in the Balkans have never recovered from the Holocaust and
their numbers keep dwindling due to old age, emigration and