A small piece of Jewish history was marked on Thursday in the capital of the state of Montenegro, as Rabbi Ari Edelkopf was elected the first-ever permanent Chief Rabbi of the state.
The coronation ceremony was held in the presence of Montenegro President Milo Jokanovic, Minister of Religious Services in Israel, Yitzhak Vaknin, Chairman of the European Jewish Association, Rabbi Menachem Margolin, Director of the Rabbinical Center of Europe, Rabbi Arie Goldberg, Israel’s Chief Rabbinate Representative, Rabbi Eliezer Simcha Weiss, President of the Montenegro Jewish Community, Giorgio Raicovich, and dozens of Montenegrin ministers and MPs.
For more than two years, Rabbi Edelkopf has served as the Rabbi of Montenegro’s Jewish community which includes over 500 Jewish families – some of whom are natives of Montenegro and others who moved to the state in recent years. During the ceremony, Rabbi Edelkopf stated, “In Judaism to be a teacher is the biggest honor. To be giving, sharing knowledge and love! The Jewish community in Montenegro is unique and I feel honored to be its Rabbi. I would like to thank my wife Hana. Everything I’ve achieved ever as a rabbi is all thanks to her and our Rebbe, who says: Everyone needs to share his or her knowledge with others. Even if you know only one letter, share it. With G-d’s help, we’ll all strive and aim for that.
During the nomination ceremony, Montenegro President Milo Jokanovic noted, “We live in hard times. Anti-Semitism 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. Rabbi Edelkopf is not only the chief Rabbi of the Jewish Community but of the entire country of Montenegro and we will surely continue our fruitful cooperation with the Jewish Community working with him.”
“Over the years, the Montenegro People have been very supportive of the Jewish people and many Montenegrins helped to hide Jews from the Nazis during the Holocaust. 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 anti-Semitic incidents in the country.”
Chairman of the European Jewish Organizations Association (EJA), Rabbi Menachem Margolin who initiated the historic appointment in Montenegro thanked President Jokanovic for his unquestionable support for the Jewish people, congratulated Rabbi Edelkopf on the appointment, and stated: “President Jokanovic is a true friend of the Jewish people and brings with him a very rich experience in the fight against anti-Semitism all over Europe. We look forward to continuing working hand in hand with him on this issue”.
Minister of Religious Services in Israel, Yitzhak Vaknin thanked President Jokanovic and EJA Chairman Rabbi Menachem Margolin for their efforts to strengthen the Jewish community in Montenegro and throughout the Balkan and noted, “The State of Israel sees itself as an address for all the Jews of the world, both the Jews who want to make Aliyah to Israel and the Jews who choose to live in the Balkans and we want to deepen the dialogue and cooperation with everyone.”
Director of the Rabbinical Center of Europe, Rabbi Arie Goldberg, noted during the ceremony, “The appointment of Rabbi Edelkopf as permanent Chief Rabbi of Montenegro will greatly contribute to strengthening the spiritual and physical infrastructure of the Jewish community in the country. We at the Rabbinical Center of Europe will continue to assist rabbis and Jewish community leaders – small and large throughout the continent, to grow, develop, and maintain their Jewish identity.”