Montenegro gives land for building of first modern synagogue

Government gifts prime real estate in capital Podgorica for tiny Jewish community’s use

JTA — The government of Montenegro reportedly has given land to its tiny Jewish community to build the country’s first synagogue in centuries.

The last of the paperwork came through on Dec. 31, according to Jasa Alfandari, president of the Jewish Community of Montenegro.

“We have been given a beautiful location in the center of the Podgorica,” the capital of the small Balkan country, Alfandari told JTA.

The site will belong to the Jewish community for 99 years, he said, and was given “as a gift by the government and the city of Podgorica.”

The building will be erected with funding secured by Vadim Rabinovich, a Ukraine-born philanthropist and co-chair of the European Jewish Parliament, Alfandari added.

In September, Rabinovich and Joel Rubinfeld, the organization’s second co-chairman, visited the country and lobbied with senior officials for help in making the synagogue a reality.

An area of the former Yugoslavia that became independent in 2006, Montenegro has about 660,000 residents and a Jewish population of a few dozen, according to the EJP. A 2007 Montenegrin statistical study of the country’s population found that there were 12 Jews.

Rabbi Luciano Moshe Prelevic will supply religious services to the Montenegro Jews. Prelevic, whose father was born in Montenegro, also serves the Jewish community of Croatia as its chief rabbi in Zagreb.

Earlier in 2012, Montenegro Prime Minister Igot Luksic signed a statement recognizing Judaism as the country’s fourth official religion.

A Jewish presence in Montenegro was first documented in the Middle Ages, according to the European Jewish Congress. It is not known whether the Jewish community had built any synagogues or where.

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