The Balkan state of Montenegro has appointed its first permanent chief rabbi, according to a statement by the European Jewish Organizations Association (EJA).Los Angeles-born Rabbi Ari Edelkopf was invested with the title in a formal ceremony, in the presence of Montenegro President Milo Jokanovic, and numerous ministers and MKs.Israel’s Religious Services Minister Yitzhak Vaknin and Rabbi Eliezer Simcha Weiss from the Chief Rabbinate also attended the event, as well as European Jewish Association chair Rabbi Menachem Margolin, Rabbinical Center of Europe Director Rabbi Arie Goldberg and Montenegro Jewish Community President Giorgio Raicovich.The inauguration took place in the opening ceremony of the 7th annual "Mahar" (Tommorow) Conference for Balcan Jewry in Budva supported by the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress led by its President Mikhail Mirilashvili who is extremely devoted for the development of Jewish life in the Balkan, the World Jewish Congress, KKL-JNF and the JDC Joint.The Conference was also supported by the Israeli Embassy in Belgrade and the Government of Montenegro. It brought together representatives from the host country as well as Serbia, North Macedonia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece, Albania, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Estonia, Belgium, Austria and Germany.Mr. Chaim Bleckhman spoke on behalf of Euro-Asian Jewish Congress President, Mikhael Mirilashvili and the congress' CEO, Chaim Ben Yaakov.Montenegro became independent from Serbia in 2006.Edelkopf is an emissary of the hassidic movement Chabad Lubavitch. According to the organization’s website, he moved to the small Balkan country in 2017.Edelkopf previously served as a rabbi in the Russian city of Sochi, but in February 2017 he and his wife, Hana, together with their seven children, were ordered to leave the country after authorities flagged him as a threat to national security, making him one of the several foreign-born Chabad rabbis who have been expelled from Russia in the past few years.“In Judaism, to be a teacher is the biggest honor,” Edelkopf said during the ceremony. “To be giving, sharing knowledge and love! The Jewish community in Montenegro is unique and I feel honored to be its rabbi.”“We live in hard times,” Jokanovic said. “Antisemitism is on the rise and is not only a problem for the Jewish community but for the whole of Europe. The appointment of a chief rabbi in Montenegro is a bright spot that we are all happy about.” Jokanovic added that Edelkopf would not only be the rabbi of the Jewish community “but of the entire country of Montenegro.”“Since its declaration of independence in 2006, the various governments in the state have maintained very good relations with the Jewish community, which is reflected, among other things, in the allocation of land for building synagogues and in the very small number of antisemitic incidents in the country,” the president added.According to the World Jewish Congress, Montenegro has a population of about 400 to 500 Jews – while Chabad estimates that there about 500 Jewish families – out of a general population of 630,000 people.Jews have continuously lived in the country for several centuries. The famed kabbalist Shabbatai Zevi, who eventually proclaimed himself the messiah and then converted to Islam, lived the last part of his life and died in the Montenegrin town of Ulcinj. JTA contributed to this report.