Jewish life is about to revive in Montenegro, with a government decision to grant Judaism the status of an official state religion, joining the current religions of Orthodox Christianity, Islam and Roman Catholicism. The country, located in the Balkans, is bordered by Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Albania. It is bordered on the west by the Adriatic Sea.
The decision came after a meeting between Montenegrin President Filip Vujanovic, Prime Minister Igor Luksic and Parliamentary President Ranko Krivokapic with Israel Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, Chabad-Lubavitch emissary Rabbi Yoel Kaplan and others.
“I will do everything I can to encourage this issue, whether through legislation, or amending the existing regulations,” the prime minister told Rabbi Metzger, who was accompanied by local Jewish leadership and a delegation from the Rabbinical Council of Europe (RCE).
Yasha Afandri, president of the Jewish community, welcomed 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 said.
There are approximately 150 known Jews out of an estimated population of about 1,000, according to a report posted on the Lubavitch.com website. At present, Judaism has the status of a non-governmental organization (NGO).
Foreign Jewish business interests and Jewish tourism to the region is growing, and the region is becoming a focus for new investment from overseas – bringing with it the potential for an increased Jewish population, at the very least on the holidays and during the Sabbath. This will increase the need for Jewish support services in the form of kosher food and Jewish education.